Academy Blog Series - Battalion 43

Week 3    Hose, Ladders, Strike, SCBA Confidence, Electrical, Heavy, Tools Aloft

Week three was the Battalion’s first full on five day drill week, their most challenging yet.  During this week, the group’s basis firefighter skill set will expand tremendously and physical fitness strengthen considerably. 

Early planning and drill set up during week two made for a smoother Monday morning as the Battalion prepared for Hose, Ladders and Strike.  The day was set with a typical drill day rotation, two stations at Hose, Forward Lay and Reverse Lay, one station at Ladders and the last station at the roof prop for a drill we call Strike, each station set at ninety minute rotations and building off skills learned the drill before.  Drill set-up assignments were determined at the morning officer’s briefing. Alpha Company set up ladders, both 14’ roof and 24’ extension, Bravo swept and mopped apparatus floors, placed dry hydrants for drilling and set traffic cones for safety, Charlie set up cadet rehab areas and Delta delivered all the tools and wood to the roof prop to rebuild after Strike.

Forward and Reverse hose lays continued with practice on mastering the skills shown the week earlier.  Ladder skills however, are expanded on a gradually increasing scale.  Cadets first learned the balance and techniques of placing a 14’ roof ladder, then were introduced to the heavier more cumbersome 24’ extension ladder.  Extension ladder lessons began with the cadets working in pairs to properly place the tool to the building.  Once a comfort zone was created, cadets were instructed to continue the work in pairs, but now with one cadet holding the ladder to the building from underneath, called footing the ladder, while the other climbed it.

Some may think ladder climbing skills come as second nature, until they climb that first ladder.  Hand and foot movements must be coordinated and remain opposite to maintain a level climbing balance.  Learning this balance in the first round will do wonders later when climbing these same ladders while carrying tools aloft, to above floors or the roof.  Cadets were taught to force their right leg to move in motion with their left arm and visa-versa, much easier going up than climbing down.  A number of the cadets climbed initially with hesitation as their bodies were held within inches of the ladder’s rungs, but as repeated trips up and down the ladders were completed, confidence built with all but a small few still needing more climbing practice.

Locking off while working from a ladder is required for safe fire ground operations.  As one cadet would foot the ladder, the other would climb to the desired height, plant one leg on a rung, adjust the other leg through the ladder rungs then wrap their foot around the ladder’s outside beam.  This type of leg securing allows firefighters to perform work from that position on the ladder while maintaining stability during tool use.  However, before a cadet is allowed to perform actual work from that secured position, they must show confidence with their leg locking ability.  So as Cadet Vasquez footed the ladder, Cadet Steele demonstrated his confidence by climbing appropriately to the designated height, positioning his legs accordingly and leaning back to look up to the skies with his arms spread wide.  Every cadet demonstrated this skill before moving to their next assignment of actually performing work off that ladder while secured.  By the end of the day, each team worked comfortably while communicating their actions to their crew member footing the ladder below, Cadet Robles, “Working off my right!”…Cadet Sisk, ”Copy, working off your right!”

At Strike, cadets learned more about hand tool use.  Last week they performed overhead axe work, breached walls, pried door jambs and broke simulated glass on ground and above level floors.  Today, the hand tool use continued, same tools, different setting.  Axe swing was practiced on a flat area prop.  Two methods were practiced, one to breach or cut a hole through a plywood sub-floor, the other to cut through a thicker wood structural member, such as a floor joist.  As Cadets Ebrahim, Roberto, Thurman and James quickly learned, having comfortable productive axe swings prevents early fatigue and gets the job done in minutes.

Proper aiming and prying techniques are some of the basic skills necessary for forcing entry into a building.  Hand tool placement on the object to be forced and firefighter hand and finger placement on the tools being used to force takes considerable practice.  Door jamb breaching was learned during Pry.  During Strike breaching padlocks, hinges, well seated eye bolts and lag bolts were taught.  One cadet would hold a rigid tool on the object to be forced, then call “Strike!” so their crew member would swing and hit that tool, breaching the objective and thus entering the building. As an example, once Cadet Guy was shown how to properly position his body while holding the Striking tool, a couple of methodical swings of his sledge hammer were enough to force the haligan tool, Cadet Pruter was holding, through the lag bolt.

All that great destructive work requires significant construction work.  Once all companies completed and cleaned up their afternoon stations, they were instructed to report to the roof prop to rebuild and replace all the consumable supplies destroyed throughout the day.  Cadets worked like crews on assignment, each company with their own duties, with all officers reporting their progress and requesting reassignment once their job was complete.  The day ended in the academy classroom with discussions surrounding the new skills learned and the general expectations of the following morning.

At the recommendations of Battalion 42, an expansion of leadership roles was introduced this semester.  As a result, company officers have been given considerable responsibility to provide for their crew needs while completing coordinator assigned tasks.  They have also been assigned an appointed cadet within their company to assist them, with the intent to prepare those assistants for the next role of company officers.  Discussion surrounding the progress of this new format and the implementation of a mentoring position was the focus of Tuesday morning’s briefing.  The officers were asked to give opinion on how the volume of new responsibilities affected them and if the seconds in command appeared ready to move forward.  All officers agreed time in the seat would help assistants prepare for their full role as the primary company officer.

Acting assignments are a common practice in many fire departments.  The assignments are given to personnel who have successfully completed their department’s promotional testing process.  These personnel ranked high on the list and may soon be promoted.  A typical acting assignment scenario would be to staff a position held by an officer who is away from duty because of illness or injury with a high scoring candidate in the Captain’s promotional process.  So keeping close to that concept, an Acting Company Officer position was created.  For the remainder of this week, the current company officers, Otani, Cervantes, Mulvehill and Lee would mentor their assistants, Robles, Hampton, Wagner and Hobbs, then later trade places to mentor the new acting officers as they performed. 

Tuesday’s light rain altered the morning’s early plans. Physical fitness continued with a group warm up under cover in the Fire Tech breezeway and a three mile formation run on the grounds.  A morning uniform inspection was scheduled and rather than postponing it, the inspection location was changed from the mat to the Fire Tech hallway, not as accommodating as the Mat, but cozy.  At 0845, the Battalion stood at attention as the inspection commenced.  Once complete, the group moved to the academy classroom for a fill-in ladder command quiz.  Each cadet was to write all commands to be spoken when using the flat and beam raise methods for placing a 14’ roof ladder and a 24’ extension ladder using two firefighters.

Gaining confidence when performing in self-contained-breathing-apparatus, SCBA is an absolute must for successful academy completion and firefighter survival.  Numerous drills are planned and scheduled to allow cadets ample time for gaining this confidence, from the beginning stages of equipment familiarization and structured donning practice to wearing the bottle and harness assembly while placing 24’ extension ladders.  It’s extremely important for each cadet’s body to get acclimated to wearing it on the fire ground and breathing through it comfortably while performing fire attack.

SCBA Confidence is a drill conducted in the academy apparatus bay, with the Certified Physical Abilities Test, CPAT tunnel as the primary focus.  The tunnel is used as an instructional aide and serves as a darkened space for cadets to crawl through while breathing bottled air.  A number of passes are made, each requiring more skill and competence.  The first pass had cadets on air with standard tunnel visibility.  Cadets Fudge and Barrett stood at the tunnel entrance ready to move the canvas cover draped over the opening as Cadets Ebrahim, Pulido, Moore and Sisk prepared themselves for their first pass.  The rotations continued until the entire Battalion successfully completed their first trek. 

The second pass required greater confidence.  Cadets were to pull their nomex hoods over their masks to impede sight as they felt their way from one end of the tunnel to other.  Team work was important during this pass, as entering cadets worked with poor to no visual.  As Cadets Mulvehill and Steele monitored the canvas entrance, Cadet Duda knelt to a crawl position, hood pulled well over his mask, breathing air with zero visibility.  Duda eager to enter, crawls in the blind, hitting the wall of the tunnel entrance, Mulvehill quickly intervenes guiding him in the right direction.

The third and last pass was the most challenging and most fun.  Cadets had to work in teams of two, one positioned at each end of the tunnel, both with handie-talkies, HTs, as their primary means of communication.  Their assignment was to make an entry to search for the victim, a manikin, inside.  Once found, the two would have to talk to one another, through their masks, and determine what method of rescue and which end of the tunnel to exit with that victim.  In addition, the primary crew member inside was required to communicate all conditions and actions to the “Tunnel Group Sup” positioned on the outside.  The drill made for great learning and listening, as cadets outside of the tunnel stood quietly listening to the radio traffic and voices of the crews inside getting worked.  And that they did.

Peers challenging peers made for great interactive learning.  Cadets not in rotation were allowed to hide the manikins in the tunnel as the crew in rotation stood outside.  Once the victims were hidden, a group briefing was conducted to discuss search and rescue expectations of the crew about to enter.  As the rotations and the morning progressed, confidence increased.  Cadets began to hide manikins in difficult spots within the tunnel, sometimes multiple manikins simultaneously and other times no manikins at all.  Search teams would rescue an adult victim only to exit the tunnel and be asked where the child was.  At the end of one scenario, the group stood listening to “One, two, three…(sliding movement coming from inside the tunnel)…one, two, three”, the tunnel canvas cover opens, Wilcox and Morris exit dragging the adult victim to safety only to find Duda saying, “Where’s my son?...Where’s my son?”  A trip back into the tunnel lands Morris with the rescue of the toddler still down inside, heroic job gentlemen.  A great day of team and confidence building while breathing bottled air, working in the dark, trying to make out muffled words coming from your crew members mask, talking over the radio through the mask and listening to every radio transmission outside the tunnel to monitor the search team’s progress. 

Controlling breathing while working on air is a life safety part of firefighter training.  An entry level drill to test the cadet’s ability to function while on air was given in between tunnel rotations.  The six floor tower was the prop of focus.  Company assignments were to don full structural personal protective equipment, PPE, to include SCBA and travel as a group to the roof of the tower.  Crews were instructed to carry one spare SCBA bottle per person, stay together throughout the assignment, monitor air supplies and control breathing.  Any crew member with low air sounding alarms was to exit the tower immediately with a supporting crew member.  To celebrate a day’s job well done, the Battalion’s first group photo was taken and is displayed as the front photo for this blog.

Wednesday’s drill rotation was set for Hose, Ladders and Electrical.  Hose continued with forward and reverse hose lay deployment.  Ladders continued with progress in climbing ability and raising techniques and Electrical introduced cadets to generators, power tools and electrical cord types.  SCBA Confidence had the cadets in structural PPE all day.  As a drill dress down, Ladders was the only rotation requiring structural clothing.

Hose lay deployment stations require cadets to function in four different roles as members of an engine company crew, Officer, Engineer, Nozzle member and Hydrant member.  Mastering all of the tasks of these assignments requires continuous practice.  Ten days of hose practice is provided to allow cadets time to prepare for performance finals.  Here’s a breakdown of one of Delta Company’s reverse lay evolutions.  Four cadets position themselves on the engine, Officer Dyer, Engineer Duda, Nozzle Member Kelly and Hydrant Member Clark.  The engine arrives on scene, Dyer orders, “Pull 250’ of 2 ½ to the fire!” Kelly repeats the order, steps off the engine and begins pulling the hose as instructed.  Clark steps off the engine to give Kelly a hand.  Duda removes an appliance, called a gated wye, from the rear compartment of the engine, places it on the ground and returns to engine.  Kelly and Clark complete the 250’ hose pull.  Clark returns to the engine. Kelly uncouples the hose from its hose bed.  Dyer steps in to pull the 4” supply hose, foots it and yells “Take Off!”  The engine drives forward.  Dyer and Kelly make the hose connections to the gated wye, run to the nozzle and call, “Water!”  Duda works on making the connection from the engine pump panel to the hydrant, “Water coming!” Clark breaks the 4” hose coupling at the engine tailboard and connects it to the pump discharge outlet.  Once connected, he makes contact with Duda for instructions, “Go fight fire.”  Clark joins his crew at the nozzle and the evolution ends, practice, practice, practice.

Cadet ladder skill level continues to increase.  Ladder placing competitions have started, a greater motivator for mastering techniques.  Raising techniques, climbing and locking off and climbing and working with tools were practiced for the bulk of the drill.  When the lesson was completed, raising races began.  Each team consisted of two cadets.  The rules and goals of the exercise were to safely and rapidly raise and place a 24’ extension ladder to the building.  All moves are monitored with unsafe moves causing an immediate stop and elimination from the round.  Numerous teams were successful, many of them completing all moves safely within twenty to thirty seconds.

Electrical is a work station geared to introduce cadets to electrical power tools.  The station starts off with introduction to power cord types, circuit breakers and ground fault circuit interrupters, GFCIs.  As the session moves forward, operating generators, flood lights, blowers and saws were brought in.  Crews were divided into three and rotated through two separate saw station and one on generator, scene lighting and blower station.  Cadets were shown how to determine the correct power cord required for a given tool and set that cord for work to ensure it wouldn’t be inadvertently unplugged.  They used chop saws, skill saws, reciprocating saws and were taught how to start an apparatus onboard generator and put 500 watt portable scene lighting and blowers into service, great electrical lessons which will pay dividends later when the group builds their Battalion project.

Thursday was an eye opener for just about every cadet, as the demands for strength and tool technique increased.  The morning started off with an officers briefing to discuss logistical plans and leadership transitions for the Battalion.  A standard Thursday work out, four mile formation run, followed.  During the run, the group was dispatched to a call, “Structure fire, 1160 Academy Way, cross of Bowline.  Respond on Channel One.”  Everyone did a speedy job, racing to their turnouts and dressing accordingly.  A record turnout time of 1:53 from the time of dispatch was achieved.  Radio listening skills improved significantly with all crews able to identify the correct address, cross street and channel to respond on, great job.

Hose, Ladders and Heavy was the drill set for the day.  Hose lay skills are improving on a daily basis, with competence levels strong enough for competitions to be added into the mix.  Body acclimation to structural clothing is also improving.  As a result, attire demands were increased to require cadets to perform the hose lays while wearing turnouts, a basic standard in all fire departments.  Heavy is a drill station introducing the concept of using a variety of tools for moving and lifting heavy objects.  Concrete slabs and blocks are used.  Tools made available to the cadets to move these objects consisted of long pry bars, cribbing and wedges, rolling bars, air bags and pressure regulators, and hydraulic bottle and floor jacks. 

The Ladder station gave the cadets their greatest challenge thus far.  This was the day the group was introduced to carrying, placing, raising, lowering and grounding 24’ extension ladders on their own.  Manipulating these ladders as a one person operation is common practice and will be become a testing standard Fall 2015 to meet new State Fire Training Firefighter I Certification Testing Standards.  The ladders are cumbersome, slightly heavy and difficult to maneuver to the newcomer.  Successful placement takes practice in technique and confidence when throwing.

More than half the Battalion struggled with their first rounds of the one person method of raising.  As the day progressed, a small handful of cadets raised the ladders confidently with the bulk of the group requiring significantly more practice.  Four days will be allotted to practicing the one person raise technique.  A few ladders hit the ground, with multiple needing repairs and one pulled completely from service.  It is definitely an acquired skill.  The group performed well overall during their initial exposure to this technique.  Words of encouragement were continually spoken as the cadets worked to maintain a confident approach.  Balancing, gravity, leg positioning, halyard handling and elbow and arm placement all play major roles in safe raising and lowering techniques.  

Thursday afternoon marked a significant event for this academy.  For decades, live propane fire and high angle rope rescue systems training have occurred.  An Advisory Committee made up of area fire department chiefs, county agency representatives, Fire Tech faculty and student body representatives, meets every semester to discuss fire science education and training.  Firefighter I curriculum compliance was a topic for discussion and decision making in Thursday’s meeting.  To comply with new firefighter training standards set by the State, the academy must provide live interior structural firefighting beginning Fall 2015.  Training with propane live fires and advanced rope rescue systems training will be discontinued at the end of this semester to make room for the hours necessary for live interior structural fire training.  A bitter sweet decision as the academy moves forward to meet accreditation requirements.  Bottom line, this will be the last Battalion receiving Rope Rescue Systems 1 certifications and live flammable gases training, Battalion 43, the last through the Propane Tree.

Friday began with an Officer’s briefing and an introduction to new company officers. Alpha Company Officer Robles, Bravo Company Officer Hampton, Charlie Company Officer Wagner and Delta Company Officer Hobbs will lead the Battalion for the next period.  Each officer will have assistants named 2s and a mentor named 3s, Cadet Sisk as Alpha 2, Cadet James Bravo 2, Cadet Berger Charlie 2 and Cadet Duda as Delta 2.  The first round of officer will act as mentors, with Cadet Otani as Alpha 3, Cadet Cervantes Bravo 3, Cadet Mulvehill Charlie 3 and Cadet Lee as Delta 3.  Drill set-up assignments were issued to the new officers strategically.  The last company to rotate through tool module drill stations is the company assigned to set it up.  This allows for smoother station break downs and helps to ensure all equipment is stowed properly at the end of the day.  Officer Robles had the most involved assignments and was in charge of setting up Tools Aloft.

Tools Aloft is a hoisting station for tools.  It’s common practice to use drop bags, thrown down from an above floor, to secure tools for hoisting operations.  The bags contain about 50’-75’ of utility rope and are clipped to the firefighter’s turnouts.  The action requires solid knot tying ability and at least two persons, one at the ground level to tie the tool off and the other at the desired floor to hoist the tool up.  A variety of tools can be hoisted aloft, long handled tools such as pike poles or rubbish hooks, chain saws, dry or charged hose lines, axes and ladders to name a few.  Cadets will utilize these skills in a Combined Operations drill scheduled later.

One person 24’ extension ladder operations continued to challenge cadets.  Many of them acquiring a better feel for the weight distribution and added technique.  A few troubles arose as afternoon winds picked up.  Ultimately crews were relocated to props containing leeward walls as a focal point, providing the cover cadets needed.  Focusing on ladder control is one thing, applying that focus in moderate wind conditions is too much of another. 

Over at Hose, Charlie and Delta companies were respectfully trash talking each other as they prepared for the first elimination round of hose lay competitions.  Fun stuff as each group formulated their plans for finishing first.  Each group had an assigned instructor to help them improve their chances of winning.  On one side of the mat stood Charlie with Cadets Mulvehill, Roberto, Wagner and Wilcox and the other side, Delta with Cadets Duda, Lee, Moore and Valenzuela.  For a little fun, here’s my best play by play announcing as the races progressed.

“Welcome to the first round of hose lay play offs.  This round will determine which company moves forward to the Super Hose Bowl,” (I’m grinning as I type).  “Companies Charlie and Delta will be competing.  And as I can see, each team is huddled with their instructor mentor planning their win strategy.  The cadets have taken their spots on the engines.  The engine motors have started.  The Official drops his arms to start the race. Everyone goes to work, Moore is first to the compartment, he grabs the gated wye and sets it on the ground, Duda and Wilcox at the engine tailboards, grabbing the nozzles and running side by side to place the it on the designated spot, both Valenzuela and Roberto grasping couplings and sprinting to towards the nozzle. Wagner and Lee simultaneously removing ladders from the engines, Duda and Wilcox in full competitive sprints with hose in hand, the peanut gallery roars!, Mulvehill set his wye and runs toward the hydrant.  At this point this race is too close to call!  The two sides look and move like mirrored images, Holy cow!  Duda and Wilcox run back to their engines, they pull more hose. They foot and break the couplings in record speed simultaneously.  Lee and Wagner stand by ready to pull the 4” discharge supply to the wye.  Valenzuela and Roberto sprint back to their spots on the engine. Duda is the first to throw the unused coupling back in the hose bed.  Lee jumps on the tailboard to grab the 4”.  Delta is inching ahead.  Duda positions the 2 ½. Lee and Wilcox run to the same designated spot.  Wagner jumps up and grabs the 4”.  Cheering voices yelling “Go!, Go!, Go!, Go!,” Lee foots the hose and yells “Take Off!”  Wagner yells the same.  The engines drive off with Delta now feet ahead.  Charlie makes up time.  Both teams make the wye connection simultaneously.  Valenzuela beats Roberto to the tailboard, Delta moves into the lead again.  Roberto pulls the 4”, Valenzuela now disconnecting his line and carrying it to the discharge panel.  Duda and Wilcox arrive at the nozzle in unison.  Man this close!  Lee and Wagner stretch the 2 ½ off the wye.  Moore and Mulvehill roll out their bypasses and make the hydrant connections.  Lee’s hose gets tangled!  He races to fix it.  Wagner catches up to Wilcox, Charlie yells “Water!” Mulvehill acknowledges the order, “Water coming”.  Lee arrives at the nozzle, Delta yells “Water!”  Moore returns the command, “Water coming!”  Roberto breaks his 4” coupling and tosses it back into the bed and carries the working end to the discharge side of the engine.  Valenzuela makes his connection, runs around the front of the engine, tells Moore, “4” hose connected”, Moore…”Go fight fire!” Valenzuela now in a full sprint, Roberto’s right behind him.  They run along the hose lay, racing to catch up with their crews at the nozzle, both with faces of sheer determination.  Valenzuela arrives first!.  Delta takes it!  What a race folks!  What a race!  Until next time, thanks for reading our blogs and supporting our/your cadets.  Be safe”

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 43

Week 2    Hose Loads, Rolls, & Lays, Ladders, SCBA, Pry

Week 2 was the Battalion’s first official week of drill rotations.  Over the next four days, the group will learn the value of time management, teamwork, delegation of duties and listening skills.

Tuesday’s Officer’s briefing started with the realignment of crews to adjust for the recent hiring of cadets from Battalion 43’s original roster.  Proudly over the past weeks four of them have been appointed as Firefighter Trainees or Fire Control Workers for Los Angeles City and Ventura County Fire Departments, congratulations Cadets Coughlin, Fisher, Fourtner and Phelps. The Battalion now consists of thirty-six members, divided into four companies containing nine cadets each.

Orders of the Day are written instructions identifying the details of every company’s daily assignments.  Officers were given time to read and process the information contained on the document before discussion was initiated. This day’s order had the Battalion start physical fitness by 0715, followed by SCBA bottle changes at 0800, hygiene by 0830, a report time of 0900 for Hose Loads and Rolls training on the mat and afternoon rotations of SCBA training and end of day roof prop rebuild.

Their three mile formation run began at 0715.  Cadence could be heard from a distance as the group made their way along academy roads in between props.  Radio management is now the norm with two officers per company constantly monitoring traffic on predesignated channels.  At the beginning of the third mile, the Battalion was dispatched to a structure fire.  The group maintained their formation during their initial efforts to respond to the mat and don structure gear.  However they were quickly instructed to break the formation and sprint to their gear to minimize turnout times, the amount of time allowed to prepare for a given call.  A short briefing with officers and their predesignated engineers after the dispatch drill identified the need for fine tuning radio listening skills so location and cross streets can be better determined.  These skills will build as the semester moves forward.

Hose loads and rolls began at 0900.  The group was divided into two and separated a distance apart, with each group covering basic loading methods to ensure hose sections pay out smoothly when in use.  The sections are connected by lighter weight metal couplings and can be easily snagged on hose compartment construction.  Dutchman is a term given to a hose folding method which allows these couplings to pass freely as they are deployed.  Crews worked to master this technique, loading approximately five to six hundred feet of large diameter supply line in its designated fire engine hose bed. 

After lunch companies were set to rotate between two assignments, SCBA donning and familiarization and Roof Prop preparation for labor intensive drill stations we call Strike and Pry.  The pre-build for these stations is significant and planned days before the event.  The afternoon started off with Company Alpha pre-building from 1300-1400 hours.  A misunderstanding of expectations forced the early return of the company, but confusion was quickly resolved and rotations turned productive.  The plan was to have one company prepping the prop while the other three companies worked with SCBAs.  Rotations were set at the top of the hour with Officers coordinating relief efforts over their HTs

Prop preparation for Strike and Pry consists of sheeting the underside of the roof prop for Pry and the top of an adjacent flat area prop for Strike.  Crews worked together pre-build Pry first by securing OSB to the ceiling and upper wall areas.  This sheeting would serve as the focus for overhead and wall axe work performed during the drill.  They also hand cut and built simulated door jambs which would be attached to the prop’s opposing walls and serve as the prying component of the drill station.

To prep for Strike, they nailed in OSB sheeting on the flat area prop.  This early build session offered beginning lessons in basic hand tool use for construction.  This will pay dividends later because every prop the Battalion cuts, strikes, prys or rips into must be rebuilt at the end of that day.  Knowing the difference between 8 and 16 duplex and sinker nails, how to properly drive that nail using a hammer and cut wood using a variety of saws makes quick work during rebuild periods.

SCBA training started on the mat.  Structured practice of having cadets don and control bottle air pressure loss from their mask mounted regulators was completed and followed by timed donning practice.  So far, the quickest don time overall sits at just over 1:30. Continued practice will chip away at that measurement until a successful time of 100% in 1:00.  After a handful of donning rounds the group was moved to the Fire Tech Simulation Room, for the second part of SCBA familiarization.

The Sim Room is a classroom outfitted with nineteen fully loaded and internet capable computers. The units are housed in desktop work stations large enough to accommodate two students studying together simultaneously.  The afternoon assignment was for each squad to research the functional components of an SCBA assembly, document their findings then create a training video containing the research just identified.  Each video was to be narrated by a squad member while another acted as the displayer or wearer of the assembly.  Video duration limits were set at five minutes and were to contain a short and accurate explanation of each component function.  Finished products would be played over the projection screen in the academy classroom to the entire Battalion

The Officer’s briefing on Wednesday was concise, as it was the first drill day and a considerable amount of work had to be accomplished prior to the 0900 start time.  Each company had a job to do once their two circuit rotation workout was complete.  Alpha Company was charged with placing seven (14’) ladders in an area we call Ladder Land, Bravo had ice and water, the Rehab station set up, Delta was to place canopies for shade and position dry hydrants for Hose Lay stations and Charlie to set up a drill station we call, Toolbox.  Charlie’s assignment was the most involved, requiring Company Officer Mulvehill and his crew to work closely with a Ventura County Fire Captain instructor/mentor to position tools and props accordingly.  With all set up complete, the group ran off for a short cold shower to prepare for a busy day of drill ground interaction and performance.

A typical drill day is set so companies rotate through four different stations throughout the day, with morning rotations beginning at 0900 and afternoon sessions at 1300.  Companies will rotate through stations requiring similar personal protective equipment or positioned in close proximity consecutively to keep transfer times down.  This day for instance, had Alpha and Charlie rotating through hose lays in the morning and ladders and toolbox during the afternoon.  All rotation orders are listed on the Orders of the Day.  Here’s a snapshot.

                        F. Lay            R. Lay            Ladders                  Toolbox

Alpha             0900            1040                1440                        1300

Charlie           1040               0900               1300                          1440

Bravo             1300              1440                 0900                        1040

Delta               1440               1300                1040                          0900

 Companies rotating through Ladders and Pry were instructed to wear turnout pants and boots over their station pant, a brush coat, helmet, safety glasses and utility gloves.  Crews moving through Hose Lays wore station pant and boot, academy t-shirt, helmet, gloves and safety glasses.

At Forward Hose Lays, Cadet Denton sets the bar as he steps towards the engine tailboard, clears the hose fold, sets up the 4-way valve appliance attached, moves the hose fold aside for easy carrying, places the hydrant wrench harness over his shoulder, carries the valve and hose away from the engine’s tailboard, then walks toward and around the hydrant, safely positions himself and yells “TAKE OFF!”  As the engine drives off, Denton makes the hydrant connection like a pro.  Actions such as this were repeated all day as cadets attempted to embed the moves into their muscle memory.  Each cadet will ultimately be held accountable to perform four separate assignments during this particular hose lay operation.

Over in Ladder Land, crews learned the feel and practiced the techniques of raising and lowering 14’ roof ladders.  A series of commands are voiced during the skill to reinforce learning and communicate to others in close proximity of intended actions.  The length of these long, shoulder loaded tools is enough to injure anyone within the over swing zone as the ladder is carried around.  Raising techniques are simple for the roof ladder because there are no moving parts.  However, handling the 14’ long tool takes skill as one must be to set the spurs of one end at the objective on the ground then position the ladder upright and safely lean it toward the building. 

Toolbox is a drill station intended to introduce cadets to basic hand tools.  Bolt cutters of various sizes, wire cutters of various types, hand saws for cutting metal or wood and webbing for securing or pulling a given object are all utilized.  Cadets rotated through mini stations cutting chain, chain-link fence, rebar and wood.  Two scenarios were given challenging crews to problem solve as they worked together to free a victim with his head stuck between metal bars of a wrought iron bar window cover, then rescue a downed construction worker who has been impaled with falling rebar, both real issues from historical emergency incidents.

Drill stations are scheduled to end at 1600 hours.  Tool stations run slightly longer to allow rotating cadets the opportunity to finish the tool skill rotation.  At the end of each drill day, the last company working a given station breaks down that station and stows the equipment appropriately.  As crews complete their breakdown assignments, they are instructed to report to the scheduled tool station to assist with its teardown.  The end of drill day periods are also used to prepare props for drills scheduled within the next one to three days.  As mentioned earlier, companies have been working to prepare the roof prop for an axe drill we call Pry.  Once the Toolbox station breakdown was complete, the Battalion moved to the roof prop to finish that pre-build assignment.

End of day meetings are usually conducted in the academy classroom.  The session is dubbed, Summary and intended to provide an arena for the group to discuss the actions of a given day.  Cadets are prompted to speak of how they approached and accomplished the drill tasks they were given. Question and answer periods follow, with a good number of questions being redirected to the group for answers, cadets learning from and teaching one another produces phenomenal results both in the classroom and on the drill ground.  The consensus of drill day one, AWESOME!

Knot tying and the use ropes for rescue is a standard in the fire service, every firefighter is expected to tie a series of knots and follow up with demonstrations of how particular knots are put into service for a variety of situations.  The list of basic knots is lengthy containing eighteen different ties, each with a time tying limit of thirty seconds.  The Battalion would be introduced to this list Thursday morning.

Colors were raised at 0645. Shortly after, Officers gathered for their morning briefing to review the day’s orders, Rope Orientation in the morning, SCBA training in the afternoon and an end of day Block Exam.  Cadets were instructed to ensure their crews possessed the required equipment prior to the beginning of their morning three mile formation run.

Rope Orientation began in the classroom at 0900 with a thirty minute session covering rope awareness, then moved to a prop a short distance away for tying practice. The Knot Rack is a prop consisting of two rows of metal horizontal poles, waist high with upright posts attached.  The prop serves as a useful anchor for group practice when knot tying.  Once the Battalion arrived to the area, they were divided between the two sides of anchors with each cadet facing an upright post. 

The tying focus was to move through the eighteen knots having each cadet first watch and then perform each tie.  A handful of instructors were onsite to assist cadets with proper tying techniques.  A few of the knots are extremely simple and learned quickly, others more involved requiring ample practice. Because of this, knot tying is introduced early in the academy to allow plenty of time for independent tying practice.  Structured group practices will begin in week four with sessions scheduled periodically until the official rope rescue systems courses begin.

To help cadets progress with their knot knowledge and tying ability, the names of knots will be listed below.  After reading this, if you have cadets you are following, ask them how they are doing with their tying techniques.  This makes for great conversation and hopefully spurs an impromptu performance of knot tying mastery.  Upon completion of the rope components of the academy, each cadet should be able to explain the function of and tie an overhand stopper, overhand bend, a becket bend, figure eight on a bight, figure follow through, an inline figure eight (both directions), a figure eight stopper, figure eight bend, clove hitch with a safety, half hitch, butterfly knot, double overhand bend, bowline with a safety, bowling on a bight, an inline bowline with a safety, a square knot bend with a safety and two harnesses, one seat and one chest.  They’re going to be tied up for a while.

After lunch, the Battalion was to have all structural gear placed in formation on the mat for structured donning practice. One round of warm up practice started the SCBA familiarization session off.  Once complete, the fully donned battalion moved to a shaded area north of the apparatus bay.  Four stations were created for the afternoon session, each offering a different style of donning.  Two stations had fire engines set up for SCBA donning from an engine compartment, built in racks along the north wall were set up for over the head donning from a standing position on a rack and a ground area set for over the head donning from a kneeling position.  Each company rotated through each area, ensuring all members were able to don with each style or method.  Times and technique are continuing to improve.

The first block exam was administered at 1600 hours in the academy classroom.  Normally when the Battalion finishes at the end of a day, they are released formally upon the command of Dismissed!  However with the exam standing in the path of a structured release, the group was advised to secure colors with the first four cadets finishing the exam while the remainder of cadets quietly filtered out of the classroom in pairs to secure gear and equipment and academy inventory storage locations.  Once all tasks were completed departing from academy grounds would be approved.  The last cadet submitted their exam at 1715, another day behind them.

The week ended with a labor intensive drill day, a four station rotation of Forward Hose Lay, Reverse Hose Lay, Ladders and Pry.  Drill day set up and planning was the focus of the morning’s briefing.  The day would run slightly different to accommodate the scheduled Certified Physical Abilities Test, CPAT.  CPAT is an exercise completion requirement countless fire agencies require during an application process.  There are only four locations throughout the state of California that offer this test, with Oxnard College Fire Technology proudly one of them.  CPAT stations are set up on the mat where the Battalion would normally have gear placed in formation and perform tasks for Reverse Hose Lays.  As a result, the Reverse Lay set up was moved to a road just east of the CPAT area with gear being placed in formation on the asphalt south of the Tower.

Drill attire was also slightly different for this day.  Structural turnouts are worn on the fire ground during incidents.  A firefighter must be acclimated to the heat stress resulting from working while wearing protective clothing.  To assist with this body acclimation process, cadets are required to wear an increasing amount of gear during training until the cadet is used to performing in full structural turnouts for continuous periods.  Cadet rehab, hydration and fitness levels really come into play here.  Constant monitoring is conducted throughout drill sessions and the day.  Instructors are given approval to pull a cadet who appears worked, but chooses to stay quiet, from the rotation so that cadet can be rehabbed, rehydrated and reenergized for remaining rotations.  This would be the first day of full turnouts for two consecutive periods (one with SCBA) of physically demanding drill stations, Ladders and Pry.  Rotations had Bravo, Delta through Ladders and Pry in the morning and Alpha, Charlie in the afternoon.

Ladder instruction and practice is given in increments.  Placing 14’ roof ladders is the simplest of tasks.  This session would introduce the cadets to 24’ extension ladders.  These ladders are heavier, have more parts and require more strength and technique to raise and lower.  To start the crews off easier, two person raising and lowering methods are covered first.  Teams would rotate through the assignment while acting either as the member at the tip or the base of the ladder.  The objective was to call out all commands while communicating with one another to properly place the fully extended ladder to the building.  To keep the work area safe, three to four teams work simultaneously while the remaining company members practice placing 14’ roof ladders at a short distance away.  The Company Officer set the crew’s rotation so all members have chance to perform all required tasks.

Up at the roof prop, crews were performing hand tool appreciation drills.  Pry is meant to build confidence with axe, ram bar, sledge, haligan, pike pole and rubbish hook use.  Cadets are taught how to properly swing an axe.  Each is given an objective to cut through and across a 4’ section of ceiling, then down a 2’ section of wall.  This takes shoulder work and pushed a number of cadets to their limits.  Another drill objective is to the teach how to force a door jamb using an axe and a haligan or sledge.  Crews practiced positioning the haligan in the jamb then calling “Strike!” until the team could pry the jamb away from its attachment. The last drill tasks were to safely break simulated glass at ground levels using an axe or above floors using long handled tools, common fire ground assignments and a solid day of productive hand tool time.

Now the clean-up phase, once all companies completed their given station breakdowns they were to report to the roof prop for the work of recycling damaged wood accumulated from Pry operations.  Charlie Company was held back to complete apparatus maintenance of cleaning engines and washing the ambulance and utility truck.  Thirty-six cadets can make quick work of large jobs, finishing the clean-up and washing in record time.  At summary, the group was polled for opinion and overall comment for the day and its demands.  Surprisingly, the group’s consensus was to push the demand higher and require a Pry work component to be completed while fully donned and breathing air from their SCBA.  I like it, a group willing to get worked! 

Battalion 43, your support of one another is growing and relationships are beginning to form.  Continue with this productive behavior.  Marked improvement in overall skill has been made note of by multiple cadre members.  Great job!  The regiment of the next couple of weeks will be tight as eight of the next ten academy days are packed with drills.  Stand by one another and assist as needed to bring your companies up together.  Strong performers are already recognized, utilize them to strengthen the performance of your crew members.  Stay the course.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 43

Week 1 Cadet Orientation, Intro to Ground Ladders, SCBA Donning & Hose

Welcome to the Academy Blog Series.  This semester the blog will follow the academy lives of Battalion 43, a group of thirty eight cadets coming from different backgrounds and levels of experience.  Readings will post every seven to ten days with topics surrounding the Battalion’s story a week at a time.

Last November during academy orientation, Cadets Pruter and Wagner were chosen to serve as the primary contacts for information dissemination.  Over the past two months these gentlemen were the Battalion liaisons, bringing attention to peer questions and working to organize the group for their day one inspection of materials.  These men did a thorough job and as a result, the Battalion as a whole met their first objective to present in unison with required materials stacked in alignment.

This semester, leadership skills were assessed immediately.  Historical practice had academy instructors confirming the presence of required materials then documenting those results on an Inventory Checklist.  To evaluate organizational ability of early leaders, inventory inspection assignments were issued to selected cadets.  As the body of the Battalion stood at attention, Cadets Otani and Phelps inspected Company Alpha, Hampton and Gelinas inspected Bravo, Wilcox and Mulvehill inventoried Charlie and Lee and Dyer examined Delta.  Each team was to submit initialed documentation upon completion.  Once inspected, cadets moved their book inventory to their designated storage shelf. 

Lockers are assigned with the purpose of keeping companies in close proximity.  This semester the locker room will be full, accommodating the men of Oxnard College’s Battalion 43 and Ventura County Fire’s Battalion 51.  There are sixty four available lockers, 43 will utilize thirty five and 51 approximately twenty, quarters will be tight.  The female locker room will be much more accommodating with only a half a dozen women utilizing a fraction of available locker space.  Cadet Cervantes called out locker assignments then instructed the group to place their designated items inside.  Upon completion, the group returned to the classroom to collect their personal safety gear and relocated to Bunker Row for turnout gear fittings.

Continuing with the evaluation of organizational skills, the same cadets assigned to inventory materials were now assigned to outfit their crews.  Each leader was instructed to break the assignment into smaller tasks and select crew members to assist.  For example, as the leaders documented sizes, the first crew assistant would issue turnout jackets while the second crew assistant issued turnout pants.  By 1100 hours, the group was positioned on the asphalt in front of the academy apparatus bay, an area we call the Mat.

Two Arcadia Fire Department Captains were onsite to guide the Battalion through their two day cadet orientation phase.  A number of topics are covered during these first two crucial days with cadet and Battalion structure as the highest priority.  As a Battalion, the group must present, move and act as one.  Teambuilding and leadership roles are critical to the early success of a group.  Movement about the grounds was first identified in the classroom, double-time, in pairs, corners at ninety degrees, covers (academy hats) worn at all times while outside unless instructed otherwise.

As the group stood on the mat, cadets were shown in detail how to place their newly issued personal protective equipment PPE, at the ready for donning.  Step by step instructions were relayed as the instructors walked and talked the cadets through each task of gear preparation.  By 1400 hours Academy Day One, Battalion 43 acted in unison by appropriately responding to commands to move, prepare their PPE for readiness and stand at parade rest in structured formation on the mat with gear displayed in tight alignment.

Raising and lowering colors is a task performed at the beginning and ending of each day.  The command to “Fallout” had the Battalion relocate from the mat to the flag pole southeast of the classroom.  Cadets were shown how to formally raise, lower and fold colors.  Instructions were also given on proper personnel movements to and from the flag pole while carrying colors and how to voice the command of raising or lowering colors to other Battalion members moving about academy grounds.  The term “Colors!” would echo and be repeated across the grounds letting all know to stop their actions, face the direction of the flag pole and stand at attention until the command of “As you were!” was relayed.

At 1500 hours, the group was instructed to change into physical training clothing and prepare for an introduction to academy circuit training and formation runs.  The group was divided into six teams for circuit training, each team setting up a given station, a tower run, manikin drag, tire drag, pull-ups, tire flip and hose drag.  Once the course was set, teams reported to their starting station, began the workout and rotated clockwise through the stations when instructed. 

The timing of rotations is determined by the team running the six story tower.  Those cadets were to don a breathing apparatus BA, harness and bottle assembly then run single file to the top of the tower twice.  Upon completion and doffing of their BA, the group would yell “Rotate!” to signal the Battalion to move to the next station.  Following the completion of an entire circuit round, the group came together for a short water and rest period, then rotated their way through the second round of training. A two mile run in formation followed circuit training.  An end of day an After Action Review AAR, was held in the academy classroom to discuss the day’s events, Academy Day One, January 12, 2015 now behind them.

Academy gates open at 0615 every morning, with cadets expected to arrive by 0630.  The group’s first unofficial uniform inspection was scheduled for 0800.  Uniform appearance, attention to grooming detail, gig lines, name tag placement, clothing wrinkles, the presence of lint, boot polishing and leather belt securing were all examined.  Once the inspection was complete, marching and facing movements were covered.  The Battalion picked up on movements quickly and marched in unison in record time, an outstanding early group performance with Cadet James acting as the Battalion Marching Officer.

After lunch, cadets reported to the classroom for detailed instruction on uniform and inspection preparation.  This session is purposefully scheduled after their first unofficial inspection with the intent of using errors identified earlier as examples of how to improve their overall appearance.  Cover labeling, collar and gig line management, shirt stays for tighter blousing, creases in pant legs and boot polishing techniques were discussed in detail to prepare the Battalion for their first formal inspection scheduled Friday at 0845.

Turnout donning sequence followed classroom discussion.  Cadets were instructed to report to the mat for instructions on how to properly dress in structural turnouts.  Directions were methodical having cadets move through each step as a group until the entire ensemble was donned.  Initial phases had cadets moving with purpose as they practiced each step.  After a few practice sessions, the rounds were timed to identify a baseline to assess progress with the first time to beat at 2:30. 

The second and last afternoon circuit training workout was set up at 1600 hours.  During this session burpees were added in between stations to improve full body strength and aerobic fitness. Two full rounds of the circuit, an organized group stretch for muscle relief and workout station breakdown finished the day off.  The Battalion was released from the mat, with all cadets encouraged to take issued PPE home for donning practice.

The Battalion’s first officers were named during Wednesday morning’s briefing.  Battalion Officer Wilcox, Alpha Company Officer Otani, Bravo Company Officer Cervantes, Charlie Company Officer Mulvehill and Delta Company Officer Lee will command the group through a heavily front loaded calendar of drills.  Acting as assistance to these leaders will be Cadet Robles as Alpha 2, Cadet Hampton as Bravo 2, Cadet Wagner as Charlie 2 and Cadet Hobbs as Delta 2.  Each of these cadets will hold the responsibility of retrieving handie-talkies, HTs every morning and communicating to one another by radio throughout each day.  The formation run was shortened to one mile to accommodate the lengthy first Officer’s briefing and a 0830 report time to the classroom for the administrative side of academy orientation.

Chief Warner welcomed the group.  She talked about the overall academy program and explained behavior and performance expectations from all cadets attending.  Logistics such as elected officers, battalion motto, certification fees and fundraising guidelines, battalion flag, plaque and graduation were all discussed.  To put assignments into motion, officer elections took place first.  A number of cadets were nominated and supported by the group, but when the count was finished Cadet Cervantes stood out as the Battalion President, Cadet Fudge as the Treasurer and Cadet Hampton as the Fundraising Events Coordinator.  Congratulations to the newly elected cabinet. 

President Cervantes was given the floor to facilitate the battalion’s motto selection.  Cadet Barragan scribed about a dozen possibilities on the white board.  “For Those Before” was voted in as the clear winner, respectful words as countless fire department personnel have experienced heartfelt line of duty losses.  The remainder of the morning covered policy, procedures, syllabus, field excursions and academy assignments.

The City of Los Angeles donated two 1990 Seagraves fire engines to the academy last semester.  These engines were delivered January 10, 2015.  Battalion 43’s afternoon assignments were to outfit both engines with tools and equipment while simultaneously outfitting themselves with the remainder of academy issued gear.  The Battalion was divided into groups, one assigned to gear issue and the others to the engines.  Everyone worked with purpose, large diameter hose was loaded on rear hose beds, smaller hose was placed in designated cross lay beds, hand tools and fittings were added to specific compartments and academy personal gear issued by squad.  Within two hours, the Battalion successfully equipped two engines and thirty seven cadets.

At 1500 hours, the group stood in formation on the mat awaiting their next assignment.  Learn by doing then learn by teaching is an instructional delivery method I strongly support.  So to start the next session off, four of the eight cadets assigned to outfit the Battalion were instructed to position themselves in front of the group and demonstrate the proper method of removing and re-installing a self-contained-breathing-apparatus, SCBA bottle to its harness assembly.  Once all questions were answered, each cadet was to repeat the action with their own SCBA.

The SCBA is one of the most important life safety pieces of equipment a firefighter will utilize and because of its value, manipulating this device with extreme competence is a must for academy success.  Once the cadets performed their own bottle change outs with the unit positioned on the ground, they were instructed to place the harness assembly on their backs and have an adjacent cadet replace the bottle as they knelt over.

Next step, turn the bottle on to allow air to move through the lines to the regulator, listen for and control any leaks or free flowing air while simultaneously controlling the motion sensing personal alarm safety system, PASS.  This took some practice.  The PASS will activate soon as the assembly is charged with pressurized air and if functioning properly, will sound loudly if the wearer remains motionless for thirty seconds. 

Alarm activation and deactivation was the focus and practiced until the sequential steps of turning the bottle on, identifying the pressure, confirming PASS activation, turning the bottle off, bleeding the system of air and properly deactivating their alarm was set into their muscle memories.  The session didn’t come quietly though.  Alarm devices sounded at random, ringing loud, resonating across the student parking lot as more control was gained.  I’m pretty sure the nearby high school teachers were wondering where all the alarms were coming from.  SCBA familiarization continued until the cadets could successfully don the unit, breathe the bottled air with a sense of comfort, then return the unit to its stowed position, tasks many of them experienced for the first time. 

The last session of the day was to practice donning academy issued structural turnouts.  With the initial lessons of performing steps methodically behind them, cadets could now focus on performing those steps for time.  A number of rounds were practiced and measured by time and the quality of cover, meaning no skin showing.  At this point, 100% of the Battalion can successfully don their personal protective clothing in 1:40, an impressive start three days in and well below the earlier measurement of 2:40.

At 0700 the next morning, Officers stood around a computer screen viewing the academy grounds as displayed by Google Earth.  Officer 2s were to lead the Battalion through the workout of the day while the primary officers were escorted about the grounds in a crew cab utility we call, 160.  Company officers were driven by each of the area props.  Identification of prop needs and supply locations were discussed for the numerous drills planned and scheduled to begin next week.  Early knowledge of the location and supply needs of a given drill will move set up periods along at a faster pace later.

Introduction to Ground Ladders started in the classroom at 0900.  The basics of ladder types, construction components, ladder commands and size selection were covered.  The session moved outside for a demonstration of how to place a 14’ roof ladder and a 24’ extension ladder safely against a building.  Cadets will soon be performing these skills both on their own and as a member of a two person team, communication and technique will become key.

During lunch Bravo Company was dispatched to a call, “Structure fire sector 104….Company Bravo respond to a structure fire at 160 Eugenia Drive, cross of Lexington. Map page 14 Edward 2, Bravo 7.  Respond on Channel 1.”  The first few members jogged their way to the mat to don their structure gear and voice their response to the fire.  Bravo Company Officer Cervantes recognized the absence of a few members and appropriately makes radio contact with them requesting they too report to the mat to don their gear and prepare for the call.  Once the drill was concluded, topics surrounding the reported address, cross street, map page number and clothing selection were discussed.  Impromptu drills of being at the ready at all times and predesignating crew assignments will be the norm throughout the semester.

Mapping, city layouts and dispatching were covered after lunch.  Cadets learned what to listen for during a typical dispatch and were shown examples of map pages and grids.  Addressing concepts were introduced on an overhead screen.  A sample wall map of the City of Ventura was displayed and used as the lesson back drop.  A short span activity was assigned with each group having to map an open road driving course a probationary firefighter would drive during a test for a firefighter driver’s license.  Once complete the group’s spokesperson would stand at the map and describe the route they planned for freeway and surface road driving, straight line backing, uphill and downhill parking, hillside driving and three point turning.

At 1445, the Battalion was positioned on the mat with gear at the ready.  The session started with the review of methodical donning and doffing of clothing and equipment, with an emphasis on controlling the mask mounted regulator and the release of bottled SCBA air to the atmosphere.  The group showed marked improvement, with each cadet gaining competence from repeated practice.  Company donning competitions followed with a number of wins going to the Alpha/Charlie side of the formation.  Bravo and Delta will have some catching up to do.  As it sits right now, Cadets Denton and Sisk hold the fastest donning times of 0.50 seconds, good job gentlemen.

Thursday ended with a classroom discussion regarding fundraising ideas and T-shirt sales.  An unscheduled visit by Battalion 42’s President and Acting Battalion Officer offered a great opportunity for members of 43 to inquire about the process.  Kat Whitby was open and shared 42’s experiences of meeting their fundraising goals, valuable information as 43 will likely need to raise approximately $11,000.00 to pay their state certification fees.

Friday morning was the Battalion’s first official inspection.  LAFD Captain Miranda was onsite to assist.  At 0900, the group stood at attention as the inspection was underway.  Other able and well qualified bodies gave an impromptu visit, offering to join in on the inspection.  As Ventura City Fire Chief Endaya and Ventura City Training Chief Hansen were introduced, cadet inspection anxiety grew.  The Battalion as a whole presented well nonetheless, standing in unison with only minor uniform errors to correct.  Situational awareness was brought to the group’s attention following the inspection because Friday was Ventura County/Ventura City Fire Academy 51’s Orientation with numerous Chiefs attending.  The grounds will soon be filled with firefighter trainees and cadets all moving with purpose.

The Introduction to Hose lesson also started in the classroom.  Water supply, hose, fittings and appliance types, hose lays and basic hose operations on the fire ground were reviewed.  One of the Seagraves engines the Battalion just put into service was parked nearby and used as an instructional aid for handling hose and fittings.  A large vinyl cover was neatly spread on the asphalt to the rear of the classroom.  A variety of hose tools, adapters, appliances, reducers, spanners, hydrant wrenches and small diameter hose lines were positioned on the cover far enough apart to step around.  Cadets were encouraged to get acquainted with the tools and equipment on display to prepare for the afternoon competitive activity.

The Fitting Bee started mid-afternoon.  The rules of the Bee were to have cadets stand in line by Squad.  Each cadet would be asked a question related to the equipment placed on display.  An instructor would pick up a piece of equipment, show it to the group while asking the cadet in turn what it is.  The cadet in question would state their name then answer the given question.  A correct answer won a trip to the back of the Squad line.  Incorrect answers were invitations to the peanut gallery.  The last two cadets standing would have a run off.

The game started easy with Squad 1being asked, “Squad One, what is today’s date?”……”Cadet Otani, one, sixteen, two thousand fifteen.”  His correct answer sent him to the back of the line.  “Squad Two, what is this called?”….”Cadet Vasquez, that is a…(deep sigh)…two and a half inch to one and a half inch reducer with rocker lugs.”  Correct, Cadet Vasquez also moves to the back of the line.  The questions kept coming, forcing cadets to put their best recall efforts on the line.  As the game progressed, the peanut gallery filled.  Questions continually answered incorrectly were sent to that gallery.  “Peanut gallery, what is AFFF?”…voices in unison, “Aqueous Film Forming Foam.”  Ultimately Cadets Guy and Wagner were the last standing. 

The run off first had the peanut gallery line up behind the cadet they thought would prevail, even support.  Cadets Guy and Wagner were handed traffic cones and instructed to run off their vision of 50’ and place the cone down.  A 50’ section of hose was stretched to its length and compared to the cadet’s measured cone placement.  Guy wins, receiving the Master Splinter Award!  As a tribute, the Battalion drops for twenty push-ups.  The Hose written exam was given afterward with five cadets scoring 30 of 32 correctly.  Cadets Lee, Barragan, Fudge, Guy and James were also given Master Splinter Awards, a great ending to an extremely productive first week.

43, your greatest chances of success will come by building your team and supporting your leaders.  Academy week ones are notoriously difficult as roughly forty individuals must find each other and come together as one.  You’re moving in the right direction and making progress.  Stay the course and unify as a rapid moving full schedule is within a few days reach.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 16   Wildland Fire Training

Weekend weather watch prompted a change in Wildland Field Exercise plans for the training scheduled at Cal State University Channel Islands. Two days were originally penned in for Tuesday and Wednesday. However, weather forecasts identifying a 100% chance of rain forced a jump in plans. Captain Bouska made the necessary cadre contacts while I communicated with Battalion Officer Minicucci and Battalion President Whitby. On a fly and a true punt, everything came together in the eleventh hour. Minicucci and Whitby were able to get the word out, accomplishing a considerable amount of organizing prior to Monday morning's early arrival.

And early it was, cadets began to arrive at 0600. A long checklist of tasks was accomplished in a fast couple of hours, with all efforts working towards a 0800 departure in strike team fashion. Apparatus prep and equipment loading started things off. Engine 38's water tank had to be filled, 1,800 feet of brush hose had to be rolled, packed and appropriately loaded, additional fittings and appliances placed in apparatus compartments, hand tools for fire line construction were loaded along with cadet rehab supplies. The travel order was determined the night before allowing for the prompt positioning of vehicles.  Once the transporting vehicles were in position and loaded a driver and officer’s briefing was conducted. Mapping, communication methods during travel, medical plan in the event of a traffic accident enroute, vehicle travel position and the make and model of the last car were noted. Acting Battalion Officer Gratz conducted a radio check on channel one, confirmed his personnel accountability and off we drove, departing only ten minutes behind schedule at 0810. Great job 42 for pulling it all together.

We were headed to a model airplane field strip located on a curvy dirt road named Old Dairy Road. The area has open parking, portable restrooms and great hillsides to train on. The Battalion pulled in and parked in a chevron pattern, donned their brush gear and prepared for the morning briefing.  Cadet safety and the possibility of injury or fatigue were discussed and rehab identified.  Crew rotation through the day’s lessons would run in the same manner as standard drill days on academy grounds, four stations, fire shelter deployment, progressive hose lays, simple hose lays and fire line construction, each with ninety minute durations.

The shelter deployment station served more as a review with a greater focus on tool use for clearing a safe working area.  The surrounding vegetation was light but still offered a challenge when scrapping down to the dirt.  On the command to deploy, crews had to clear their area, set up their shelter and be prepared to hold their position for the duration as the life-threatening situation passed.  Progressive hose lays forced cadets up a moderate slope.  Crews worked together to prepare the first sections of hose for the lay.  A call for water, a nozzle adjustment and a spray pattern wetting the area at the base of the fire line and up the hill they hiked.  The same techniques learned in week 15 were utilized.  Each crew advanced the charged hose line up hill, prepped new hose sections to be attached, clamped the wet line then attached the dry.  Another call for water, a hose clamp released, water sprayed and farther uphill they advanced, progressively hose laying 600’-800’ of line.

The simple hose lay station had cadets working individually utilizing a concept similar to progressive lays.  With the simple lay, each cadet had to perform all tasks on their own.  An area on the hillside with the softest incline was selected for practice.  Unlike the name, the assignment is no simple lay.  Cadets stood on the dirt road at the base of the hill, hose pack donned.  They removed the first section of hose, rolled it out, attached the nozzle then called for water.  Once the nozzle was adjusted, water was sprayed in a circular pattern up the incline.  When the cadet arrived to the point of a fully stretched line, the second section of hose was rolled out downhill, charged line clamped, new line attached and another 100’ advanced.  The work didn’t finish at deploying.  Once the hose line was advanced to the objective, the cadet had to pick all 200’ of that hose during the return to the engine parked on the road, a distance away.

At the fire line construction station, cadets learned the sequence of tool use in a line of workers cutting vegetation and scraping down to dirt level along a fire’s edge.  Line construction around the fire’s edge separates flames from unburned material and helps to contain a given fire in its area.  On many occasion however, winds, radiant heat and blowing embers push the fire across the line and spot fires ignite.  The crews worked together to cut their line up slope, another labor intensive drill station.

The rotations continued throughout the day with lunch onsite and an end of day After Action Review of operations.  The return trip was conducted in the travel manner as the morning.  Upon arrival to the academy, drivers pulled their vehicles to bunker row, unloaded their brush gear then reported to the app bay mat for a short briefing identifying company clean up assignments.  The Battalion made quick work of what needed to be accomplished prior to release and was dismissed by Acting Battalion Officer Gratz, from the apparatus bay mat.

At 0700 the next morning, Officers talked strategy of how they were to continue with academy demobilization.  The demobe assignments for this day was to have Company Officer Hamilton in charge of stripping the remaining tools and equipment from Engine 1’s compartments, Company Officer’s Brinkman and Villavicenio responsible for detailing their crew’s assigned engines, with Company Officer Gullo accountable to confine equipment removed earlier from Engine 4 to a smaller footprint on the apparatus floor.  When all crews were finished, the Battalion was to divide and detail Squad 1 and Engine 9.  E9 was slated to be on display at graduation and was in need of a thorough wipe down.

The last viewing of the grad movie started the classroom session.  The Wildland focus of the day would have the cadets indoors all day, timely because it rained heavily all day.  The material to be covered had the group discussing methods of maintaining situational awareness while performing suppression duties on a brush fire.  S-133, Look Up, Look Down, Look Around was the name of the course covered, seemingly simple name or concept.  However, fire line conditions can move out of control in an instant.  Remaining keenly aware of all of your surroundings when you out there helps you make sound decisions as you react to rapidly changing conditions.

Another rainy day schedule was planned for Wednesday.  The morning’s demobe assignment had the Battalion come together in the classroom at 0700.  With Chief Warner present, manila envelopes were distributed to its rightful cadet.  The packs contained all of the original certifications each cadet had been awarded throughout the semester.  Every cadet was assigned to inventory their envelope and confirm all certifications were present.  A proud moment for the group as they held the certs they worked so hard to obtain over the past 15 weeks.  Once completed, each cadet returned the envelope with initialed documentation as a follow up.  As paperwork was submitted, each cadet was able to view their final academy grade.

After documentation duties were complete, cadets were asked to retrieve and inspect their SCBA harnesses.  These units were used considerably throughout the semester and now needed to be assessed for the readiness of the next battalion.  Since all structural firefighting lessons were now complete, the harnesses, upon inspection could also be returned to the academy inventory.  Next up was helmet, book storage and locker clean out, reality of academy completion setting in deeper, as each cadet emptied their lockers and cubby storage spots in the classroom.  Cadets quietly sounded with disappointments as they removed their names from their helmets, bitter sweet.

A large floor model sand table was reserved in a classroom a short distance away for Wednesday’s rainy day exercises.  The lessons-incidents would involve structure protection during brush fires in the wildland urban interface, WUI.  Cadets surrounded the table, some sitting on their helmets, others kneeling comfortably with their elbows resting on the side wall supports.  A number of HTs were utilized with all traffic to be transmitted over channel one.  The sand was molded into a community with a dozen residences placed in clusters throughout the hills.  The fire was yarned off east of the newly shaped community.  Addresses were identified and assigned to model homes, coinciding with overhead projected photos, a pretty cool set up.

The Ridge Fire was burning its way towards the community.  Crews were assigned to triage the structures to determine what protection, if any, the houses would need to withstand the passing fire.  If the decision was made to stay at a given property to prep it or protect it, crews needed to establish LCES and describe what actions they were to take.  Communications were restricted to radio contact during this phase.  Transmissions lasted for a couple of hours.  Below are examples of a three different engine company leaders, Cadet Hill on Engine 3, Cadet Smith on Engine 8 and Charlie Company Officer Gullo on Engine 5.

Foxtrot, Engine 3……Engine 3 go ahead……Foxtrot I posted a lookout at the top of the ridge up by 16 Gann to see if the fire is advancing closer to the river……Copy, you have a lookout established at 16 Gann, what’s the call sign for that lookout?......His ID will be Gann Lookout…..Copy Gann Lookout…..

Foxtrot from Engine 8…..Engine 8 go ahead……Be advised the fire has reached our trigger point, we’re going to evacuate back across the creek to our safety zone……I copy you’re moving across the creek, do we have any other resources on that side of the creek?......negative, but if you could send one ambulance our way to get our civilian checked out to make sure his alright……I copy, any way to move the civilian out of that area so we don’t have to have a medic come in?......Affirmative, we’ll bring the civilian out……..Copy, what is the condition of the civilian?.......The civilian has slight heat exposure but appears to be stable…..Copy heat exposure but stable….

Foxtrot, Engine 5…..Engine 5 go ahead…..Update, we have a lookout on the south side on 37 Sandy Lane, we have an escape route and safety zone set, we have a secondary water supply which is a pool, 500 gallons…..Copy 500 gallon pool, established LCES……

At the end of the incident, each crew leader had to explain the reasoning behind their decisions made and trigger points noted, relevant and comprehensive training.  Tactics and strategy related to WUI structure protection continued throughout the period, with on scene reports practiced during the late afternoon. 

The last day of instruction, Thursday, December 4th, 2014, started with a Battalion briefing in the redesigned student library, proud roars as everyone arrived ready to hear the day’s plan.  Completing academy demobilization, taking a morning group photo dressed in uniform, working the “Duck Fire” in the mud, taking an afternoon group photo dressed in mud clad brush gear, cleaning and returning that mud clad brush gear and lastly conducting the final academy summary prior to dismissal.  What a great day we had planned.

Facilities maintenance was the first order, clean the student break room, academy refrigerator and locker room showers.  Once complete, cadets were instructed relocate to the hose drying rack and bunker row to acquire all hose, tools and equipment necessary to work the “Duck Fire”.  This fire would be managed in the duck pond area located west on the Fire Tech Building.  Recent rains made for perfect muddy conditions-I’m typing with all smiles.

The incident was run by the cadets acting in a variety of roles.  Both morning and afternoon exercises would be similar with crews swapping assignments.  For instance, companies functioning as hand crews in the morning would work as engine crews progressively laying hose in the afternoon.  Division leaders, engine captains and engineers, and hand crew leaders were appointed by the drill instructors, with Charlie Officer Gullo and Alpha Officer Hamilton operating as Divisions A & B leaders during the morning and Cadets Minyard and Stevens serving as Division Leaders during the afternoon, excellent radio communications throughout the exercise.

Hose was progressively laid, fire lines were cut and shelters deployed.  An impromptu water drop drill was initiated as Ventura County Fire’s Helicopter flew over.  They enjoyed the role play, activating their signal for a drop forcing the cadets to hit the mud face down in an effort to protect themselves from the simulated water release.  An applause goes out to the entire Battalion for a commanding performance for running their own exercise and conducting their own After Action Reviews.

The last group photo was taken with all cadets piling on the soon to be surveyed Engine 4.  Muddy faces and big teeth smiles said everything, what a great end to an awesome semester.  42, you lived every part of your train to survive motto, as you worked toward successful academy completion.  This chapter of your life will close in a couple days at graduation.  Stay in touch and support one another as you advance through application processes and firefighter trainee appointments and ultimately your careers.  You’ve done well.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 15   Wildland Fire Training

Only three days were available for instruction this week, as Thanksgiving weekend was on the horizon. The long list of objectives scheduled to cover during this short period kept time management as a priority.

To maintain structure and attention to detail, Monday morning started off with a full inspection of all cadet areas, uniform, still to be returned academy issued gear, book storage and locker organization. By 0800 the group stood in the classroom at attention, awaiting the order of “Seats”. The last block exam followed. These exams cover a variety of material and several chapters. Questions are generated from the reading assignments posted on the classroom board. The content of a given exam varies by Battalion as calendars and topics are rearranged every semester to meet instructor and prop availability.  This particular exam had a strong focus on hazardous materials. 

The Basics of Wildland Firefighter Training began at 0900 in the classroom.  A review of wildland terminology covered last Thursday started the session off.  As was mentioned in earlier reading, speaking the same language is crucial to wildland incident mitigation.  Terminology is categorized by topography, wildland fuels, weather and fire behavior, each with its own characteristics.  Slope, aspect, elevation and terrain are topographical terms.  The fuels category lists vegetation by size and type, light grass to heavy timber, each burning significantly different. Weather uses terms such as wind, air moisture, stability and temperature and fire behavior with its descriptions of how fast the fire is moving, rate of spread, and/or how hot the fire is burning, fire intensity.

To paint a paragraph length picture of terms just discussed and using the Ventura Avenue hillsides as a back drop, here is a simple story of how things can come together.  It’s a sunny afternoon on a 4th of July weekend in Ventura, 75-80 degrees, dry vegetation because of drought, afternoon winds blowing from the southwest.  Families living in close proximity of the hillside are celebrating.  An aggressive celebrator lights an air streaming firework into the sky.  The firework turned ignition source lands in the dry vegetation near the base of the hillside.  A small fire starts in light grass. Afternoon winds push the fire closer to the hillside base where fast burning fuel begins to ignite from radiant heat. With the fuel at the hillside base now burning and preheating denser vegetation above it, this very steep slope with a west facing aspect in direct sunlight burns at a rapid rate of fire spread, growing in intensity until it reaches the ridge and is finally able to control.  Aspect, direct sunlight, wind, high percentage of slope, vegetation and fuel moisture all had an influence on the outcome.

Cadets did a thorough job of processing similar information as new terms and suppression concepts were introduced.  It’s very important for them to have an understanding of how all those factors influence the fire behavior and each other.  Topography was shown on the overhead screen as the cadets were taught to study each slope and its given fuel or aspect, the time of day and the resulting fire behavior.  A number of visuals were shown to reinforce comprehension.

The Incident Command System is used when battling wild fires and was discussed at length.  Crews learned how to manage a large fire by dividing the area involved and were later able to identify the type of resources necessary to work the fire. The Standard Firefighting Orders and 18 Watchout Situations, commonly called the 10s & 18s were reviewed a line at a time to reinforce the importance of the orders.  On many occasions fires resulting in injury or death have been investigated and have found these orders and watchouts were not adhered to, thus contributing to the problem causing the injury or death.

After lunch, the group learned how to implement a standard guideline for wild fires called LCES. The mnemonic stands for Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones. Each of these life-saving guidelines should be identified and used accordingly to increase chances of survival when fighting wild fires.  A lookout is someone posted high on a ridge or other area offering a full view of the fire’s progress.  This lookout should have strong knowledge of wild fire behavior and constantly monitor the situation below interpreting or predicting fire behavior while maintaining active communications with assigned crews.  Escape routes are the identified paths used to literally escape.  These paths should lead the crews to the predesignated safety zone a short distance away.  If a safety zone cannot be identified within close proximity, then safe refuge areas are temporarily used.

Deploying a fire shelter in adverse fire conditions is one of the most life-threatening situations a wildland firefighter can be in.  These shelters are a part of every crew member’s personal protective gear and are worn at all times during suppression efforts.  Utilizing this protection takes practice.  The shelter, a make-shift one person tent, is folded tight and carried in a canvas clad plastic container.  The wearer must remove the shelter from its case, open the folds to expose an area of the tent to step on, position their body inside and lie down while tucking edges in, not easy, especially when winds are actively blowing.  The group used the duck pond area on the west side of academy grounds to don their tents and yes, a light afternoon wind made for a little fun.

Tuesday morning would be the last pistol range run of the semester.  The range, just over a couple of miles away with a down and back trip measuring in just under five miles, is a nice destination to run to and change of pace from the formation runs throughout the academy grounds.  Class wasn’t scheduled to start until 0900, however the Battalion was instructed to report in uniform at 0830 for the first viewing of the Battalion 42 Grad Movie.  The overall movie last ninety minutes and was sectioned off into three parts to avoid interrupting a day’s lessons.  

Wildland continued with lessons involving the use of ICS.  On this morning, the use of briefings were implemented and ultimately used for the remainder of the semester.  Acting Battalion Officer Gratz was given his orders for the session.  His assignment was to brief his officers, then have them brief their crews on what was to be completed during this period.  The session lasted a bit longer than anticipated as the new officers did their best to complete the task at hand.  The ability to communicate is important, but briefing clear and concise takes practice.

Following the exercise, the Battalion returned to the classroom for Introduction to Wildland Urban Interface WUI Operations.  WUI is the area where hillsides and mountainous terrain backup to adjacent communities.  Providing protection in this interface must be strategic to ensure the safety of crews and the public.  This introductory session prepared the cadets for sand table exercises scheduled the last week of the academy. Transportation Safety discussions followed and led the group to the lunch period.  During the second half of the lunch period, company officers were assigned to outfit their crews with academy issued web gear.  Web gear is a canvas harness or back pack containing a fire shelter, pouches for canteens, radios and compact items.  The gear is worn by every firefighter on the fire lines.

The Battalion reported to the Ventura County Fire airship hanger after lunch for helicopter orientation.  Safety training for operating near these ships is life-saving, with approach and situational awareness playing a key role while in close proximity of moving rotary blades.  The copters carry fire crews to remote places and also serve as air attack dropping water or aerial reconnaissance to ground crews.  The Ventura County Air Crews did a great job welcoming the Battalion and covering basic safety measures to perform during air operations.  Their presence will later be taken advantage of during onsite wildland incident training.

The Wildland Firefighter Training final exam was scheduled for 1400 hours in the academy classroom.  Upon completion, cadets were to gather equipment and personal protective clothing and gear and report to the mat in front of the apparatus bay for introduction training on how to prepare hose packs for deployment.  The packs are worn by working crew members and deployed in progression along the fire line.  Basic pack inventory consists of 200’ of light weight hose measuring one and one-half inch in diameter, clamps to squeeze the hose closed, small metal appliances called in-line hose tees used for attaching one inch hose as needed, and a fire hose nozzle with a handle called a bale, as a shut-off.

Companies worked together rolling the hose and building their packs, with each squad assigned one pack.  Once all groups were donned and ready, a demonstration of how to deploy the packs was given.  Progressive hose lay is the term given to this style of deployment because the lay is advanced in sections along the fire’s edge with the hose always charged full of water.  Cadets had to communicate with one another to roll out the hose to be attached, crimp the charged line closed, bleed the line and remove the nozzle, attach the next hose section, release the hose clamp to allow water flow and advance the charged line further along the fire’s edge while spraying water in a conservative yet productive extinguishing pattern, great practice.  The day ended with hose pack breakdown, wet hose racked for drying, appliances cleaned of debris and gear inventoried. 

The Wednesday morning briefing focused on continued demobe with the stripping of Engine 1 and the return of all remaining non-wildland related academy gear as the morning’s primary focus.  The entire battalion was brought together to discuss assignments and morning expectations.  Alpha Company Officer Hamilton was in-charge of inventorying all SCBA masks, practice rope and nylon tubular webbing, Bravo Company Officer Brinkman and Charlie Company Officer Gullo were responsible for removing, rolling and stacking all large diameter fire hose with Delta Company Officer Villavicenio tasked with removing, rolling and stacking all small diameter hose.  Cadet Whitby was assigned to oversee the placement of all equipment in its designated area, a small rectangular footprint on the apparatus floor.  Equipment was to be placed in a tight, organized fashion. 

With instructions in order, the Battalion set up for their last circuit training workout and last trips of running to the roof of the tower, SCBA donned, arriving and yelling their motto, bitter sweet.  The second grad movie viewing started at 0830.  Cadets watched the footage while listening to classic rock music soundtrack added in the background.  A few cadets made comment relating the music to a movie produced years earlier named “Almost Famous”.  This intrigued me, as I have never seen nor made note of this picture.  Finding, buying and watching this movie over Thanksgiving weekend was just added to my things to do list.

Wednesday’s focused took the cadets deeper into on scene reports, incident management and implementing LCES.  Visuals would be displayed on the screen as cadets took turns talking their way through the given scenario.  This was productive practice because it prepared the group for the afternoon sand table exercises.  A sand table is a free standing table, rectangular shaped, waist high filled half high with sand perfect for shaping.  Fictitious hillside communities can be formed for a variety of wildland fire situations.  Fire engine hot wheels are used as responding apparatus and model scale vegetation as potential fuel for the incoming red yarn bordered wildfire.

A few scenarios were planned and managed in depth, assigning resources into extended attack operations.  Cadets worked the Blunt Fire, fifteen acres burning in light brush with patch timber, southwest winds at twenty miles per hour and wind gusts at forty-five miles per hour.  Cadets had the fire separated into Divisions, with Engine 22 acting as Division Alpha and Engine 21 as Division Zulu.  LCES was established and responding companies, water tenders, dozers, additional engines and hand crews strategically placed.  A number of roles were played as cadets acted out and documented the scenario.

Wildland lessons for the day were completed by 1530 hours.  However, the morning’s demobe assignment had yet to be documented.  Companies used their phones to photograph the inventory removed from Engine 1 earlier.  The pictures were added to written inventory lists as a follow up.  The Battalion did a thorough job of keeping equipment organized while maintaining accountability.  Once all documentation was submitted, Acting Battalion Officer Gratz dismissed the group for the holiday weekend.

It’s the home stretch 42, with only a week on the horizon.  You’re in the midst of a commanding finish.  The demobilization duties you’ve completed thus far are comprehensive and organized.  The new company officers are performing well and appropriately chosen, a round of applause to former Officers Cleary, Gorski, Locke and Minyard for the recommendations.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 14  Hazardous Materials First Responder Operational - Decontamination FRO-D, Confined Space Awareness, Weapons of Mass Destruction WMD, Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior

This week, for the most part, continued with training surrounding hazardous material or space danger potential. Remember, the group began hazardous material training a couple of weeks ago during FRO. The sessions scheduled this week are an extension of their earlier training.

A 0715 Monday morning briefing started the week off. This would be the last leadership transition meeting of the semester with Battalion Officer Minicucci serving as a mentor to Acting Battalion Officer Gratz, Alpha Company Officer Hamilton, Bravo Company Officer Brinkman, Charlie Company Officer Gullo and Delta Company Officer Villavicenio all ready for their new role. Once the former officers explained daily duties, they were dismissed to join the Battalion in a group stretch while the new officers were briefed in detail of their end of semester assignments.

These leaders, for the first time in our academy operations, would be empowered with completing and documenting the academy demobilization process of their crews. The assignment is notable as all academy issued gear would be examined for continued service, then documented and stored accordingly as well as two academy engines being pulled from service with hose, tools and equipment removed and organized in a designated area on the apparatus bay floor. Demobe would be accomplished incrementally, avoiding the interruption of the normal day’s lessons and finished by Thursday, 5pm, December 4th.  This group had a job to get done.

Workout and apparatus maintenance followed the briefing. The cleanup phase at the end of week 13 left considerable hose, tools and equipment placed out to dry over the weekend. So Monday morning was all about returning this equipment to its rightful compartment or area on its engine or designated bunker. Additionally, the portable props utilized during Firefighter Survival training needed to be secured in a weather protected spot, as rain was in a near forecast.

FRO-D was scheduled to begin at 0900 in the classroom with the theory and concepts of decontamination being discussed. Earlier during FRO cadets learned how hazardous materials incidents are zoned off to protect rescuers, victims and the public. The Exclusion Zone immediately surrounding the incident, the Contamination Reduction Zone located a distance from the incident and moderately dangerous and lastly, the Support Zone where rescuers plan and manage operations and dress appropriately to mitigate the hazardous issue.

The term decontamination as defined by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services CAL-OES, is the process of removing contaminates from people, equipment, structures, the environment or anything that may be contaminated. It’s designed to minimize exposure to hazardous substances and limit the spread of contamination.  To prep you for reading farther into this week, I’ll give a quick view of a few types of decontamination; emergency decon, the urgent removal of product from a rescuer or victim having direct exposure; mass decon, the urgent removal of product from multiple victims in direct contact; precautionary decon used for civilians presenting with related signs and symptoms of exposure-who may have already been mass deconned and lastly, responder decon, the methods used to clean rescuers leaving the Exclusion Zone. FRO-D primarily covers responder decon, however, an event less than a day away will make history and headlines within Ventura County, as one of the largest hazardous materials incidents to date was about to unfold, resulting in the utilization of all decontamination types.

The field exercise for the Battalion was to set up for responder decontamination. The props located in Hazmat Land were utilized. The afternoon started off with a demonstration of how to set up a three pool system of cleaning exiting rescuers. The system is designed to allow the contaminated entry team to move through a series of washes until clean enough to remove protective clothing. A rescuer, dressed in fully encapsulated level A, clothing would step into the first pool. Other responders positioned outside the pool and also dress appropriately would scrub and rinse gross contaminants from the rescuer standing in the pool. A step into the second adjacent pool cleaned the rescuer of residue and the third pool process finished off with a thorough rinsing. Once the move through all pools was complete, the rescuer could then remove protective clothing and breathing apparatus, in that order. The assignments this afternoon had Bravo suiting in level A clothing, Charlie dressing in one grade down, level B clothing and Alpha and Delta constructing and breaking down the pool setup. The day ended with the entire Battalion decontaminating all equipment used and placing it in designated areas for thorough drying.

The Tuesday morning Officer’s briefing focus was slightly altered to pay attention to current event. The Mission Incident began in the early morning hours and was growing as the briefing was conducted. All Officers gathered around the desktop computer screen, Google Earth displayed offering a satellite view of the incident site, while active radio traffic from the incident resonated from the cell phone scanner. Officers were to listen to the transmissions while analyzing the map and discuss the real time impacts of orders actively being given, a great impromptu thought processing session. The cadets completed a pistol range run and hazmat equipment stowing after the briefing. I kept my phone with me all day, set in scan mode, monitoring the events of the disaster actively happening in our backyard.

Confined Space Awareness training was scheduled for 0900 in the classroom. This state mandated training is a part of every accredited academy curriculum. A confined space is an area large enough for a person to enter and work with limited or restricted entry and exit points and not designed to continuously occupy. Awareness training in areas such as this is important because of the potential danger to both workers and rescuers. Oxygen deficiency, exposure to flammable vapors or toxic gases, the potential to be engulfed in a solid or liquid stored or moving through the area, extreme temperatures and working in close proximity with heavy machinery all pose considerable risk.

The training kept the Battalion indoors with the exception of an hour session on the mat, talking cadets through the set-up of a basic A frame ladder rescue system commonly utilized for confined space victim rescue. The certification course ended with a review and visible display of various spaces projected on the screen with cadets calling out the nature and category of the space. The day ended and the Battalion released as the Mission Incident continued.

The Officer’s briefing the next morning focused on academy demobilization. Each officer was asked to explain how they would collect, examine, organize and return their crew’s academy issued turnouts to the designated bunkers. With all answers well spoken, the officers were tasked with implementing everything just described.

The last hazardous materials related course of the semester was Weapons of Mass Destruction WMD. Questions surrounding the Mission Incident started the lesson off. What happened? In the early morning hours on November 18th, a vacuum truck exploded at a waste water treatment facility in the City of Santa Paula, the release of a combustion supporting chemical material spread. As the fire continued to burn, toxic smoke contaminated the skies, pushing west by natural wind. Only a few injuries reported initially, but as the incident grew, rescuers, workers and civilians became exposed, needing decontamination and hospital attention. A subsequent and separate incident resulted at Ventura County Medical Center VCMC, out of immediate need to decontaminate incoming patients and areas of the Emergency Department. The decontamination methods written earlier were in full force as VCMC did their best, utilizing outdoor tents and decon areas to manage the resulting 44 patients. In Santa Paula, freeway and road closures, evacuations and orders for sheltering in place were inforce. The incident was active for countless hours and is still under investigation. Interesting conservation with cadets asking and discussing absolutely relevant questions and topics, showing their comprehension of material previously covered. Good job 42.

The WMD lesson moved forward. The frequency of high-profile acts of terrorism has increased following the events of 9/11.  As a result, the topic was added to the Firefighter 1 curriculum. A weapon of mass destruction is a device made up of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive components and used as a weapon with the intent of large-scale impact on people, property and/or infrastructure. These events can be all too close to home, with the potential for rescuer injury or death during response extremely relevant. Cadets followed the material as it was covered, doing their best to manage another all day classroom session. The course ended with review and subsequent written certification test.

Upon release from WMD, the Officer’s continued with their demobe assignments of securing all structural clothing to its designated areas. Everything was to be documented thoroughly, signed then submitted for filing. The process was bitter sweet for many of them, as now the excitement of academy completion and the reality of leaving the camaraderie was setting in. The new officers did well by delegating assignments and thus completing the tasks prior to an on time departure for the day.

The last day of Week 14 was the first day of Wildland Fire Training. Prior to the start of class there was considerable work to accomplish, as the morning was slated for stripping Engine 4. The City of Los Angeles has generously donated two triple combination pumpers, 1990 Seagraves fire engines with enclosed cabs. These engines will be put into service and used by the next battalion. Making room for these engines requires the removal of two older model apparatus, Engine 4 and Engine 1.

During the Officer’s briefing, Battalion Officer Minicucci drew his vision of an inventory storage footprint on the white board. The storage area was to be set up on the apparatus bay floor and compartmentalized as if it depicted Engine 4. With all officers interpreting the drawing alike, company assignments by engine area were identified. When asked how long they predicted the job would take, durations of 40-45 minutes were estimated.  Too long, they were given 25 minutes to complete the work immediately following physical fitness.

Acting Battalion Officer Gratz was in charge of ensuring all hose was pulled, rolled and stacked by size. He posted a drawing of the assigned equipment areas on the back wall of the apparatus bay to serve as a reference for crews trying to determine where inventory was to be placed. Alpha Company Officer Hamilton guided his crew as they removed the tools and equipment from the driver’s side, Delta Company Officer Villavicenio with his crew working on inventory from the passenger’s side and Bravo and Charlie Company Officers Brinkman and Gullo with their crews pulling and rolling all hose and removing equipment from the topside and cab. Everyone moved with purpose, as the clock was ticking. The objective was met with minutes to spare. To utilize valuable time prior to class, a group photo was taken in front with the now out of service engine in the background.  Well done 42.

Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior began at 0900. This National Wildland Coordinating Group NWCG, certification course covers the basics of terminology regarding topography, fire description as it burns across that topography, fire rate of spread and general methods of fire suppression. Captain Bouska, retired CalFire, was quick to implement the use of handie-talkies during the session. Cadets would learn of the topography or given fire situation and relay their perception over the HT as others listened. The ability to describe what you see over the radio is crucial for on scene reporting and incident management. The speaker must paint an accurate picture in the listener’s mind of what’s actively transpiring so all responding companies and personnel are on the same page and thus the same fire attack thought process. The introduction training continued into the afternoon and was complete by 4:00 pm.

Earlier during the week, the Battalion was polled to identify engine numbering suggestions for the two Seagraves coming in. Several options were mentioned, a few with merit. The final consensus was to follow the numbering system already started by Battalion 38, numbering Engine 38. The first of the new engines would be numbered Engine 39. This would salute Captain Jim Petersen’s last Battalion and his retirement. The second would be numbered Engine 42 for obvious reason. Any engines additionally donated by supporting agencies would be numbered to fill in the gap. A formal letter was drafted and sent forward identifying the requests with the group photo taken earlier integrated. The request will stand and Engines 39 and 42 will be put into service in just a few short weeks. The Battalion was notified at the day’s summary session, all smiles. Prior to the group’s dismissal, all Officers were to submit the documentation of inventory removed. Both written and photographic documentation was recommended and collected.

42, your support of new officers and your drive to accomplish the tasks at hand are remarkable. Your performance remains focused and will represent you well. Wildland training is the only subject left on the calendar. You’re almost there, stay the course.

Captain Crudo


Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Graduation Preparation

All efforts are being placed on the creation of a Battalion 42 movie and slide presentation for the graduation ceremony on Saturday, December 6th at 9:00am. The Academy Blog Series will continue after graduation with reading surrounding weeks 14, 15 and 16.

The movie is a summation of the semester and will begin at 8:00 am, an hour before the ceremony. The slide presentation will showcase each cadet and will be shown on the screen as graduates walk the stage. It's shaping up to be a memorable ceremony. We look forward to seeing you. Thank you for staying involved.

Captain Crudo


Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 13   Training Bulletins, 42's Battalion Level Project Completion, 43's Orientation, Combined Operations, Firefighter Safety and Survival

The holiday preceding this instructional week allowed for a relaxing four day weekend, very timely, as it didn't get any busier than Week 13. 

Tuesday started with an early morning briefing to discuss the lengthy list of the day's orders, a morning run, the completion of a battalion level project assigned earlier during the semester, the relocation of academy issued personal protective equipment, cadet input on student library discussions, gear preparation for the Combined Operations (Ops) drill scheduled for Wednesday, firefighter safety training related to public service calls for snake, block exam 424, training bulletin creation, an Incident Action Plan (IAP) briefing for Combined Ops, and set up for Battalion 43's Orientation. Tuesday's buzz words?...time management.

The morning formation run was kept at a casual two miles to accommodate the end of day workout Battalion 42 would perform with Battalion 43 during the first hour of their orientation. Predesignated assignments had companies divided after the run to accomplish the greatest number of tasks in the least amount of time. Three companies prepared hose bundles and engine equipment for Combined Ops while the fourth company installed hardware onto the turnout storage shelving project Battalion 42 constructed weeks earlier. Within an hour the engines were stocked and ready and the storage project detailed and cleaned. Picture perfect gear storage.

Companies relocated their gear from the asphalt mat in front of the apparatus bay to their newly assigned area on the turnout shelves, each Company with a designated wall. The wall mounted shelving set-up will serve double duty by providing a secure location for cadet issued gear while protecting that gear from adverse weather, constant sunlight or steady rain. The latter we can only hope for.

Firefighter safety training related to managing snake calls started at 0900 in the academy classroom. You may not have thought, but a surprising number of call types for snake are generated by citizens concerned for their safety. Over the years, the fire service has captured and released thousands of these well hidden and fast moving creatures.

The lesson was interactive and entertaining. Cadets learned how to identify various snake types, the signs and symptoms of snake bites and the management of patients suffering from venomous contact. Just about every fire engine carries a snake stick as common inventory and more often than not, the firefighter is assigned the stick duty. After the proper use of a snake stick was demonstrated, the group was polled for a volunteer to transfer the snake laying in a nearby glass aquarium to a designated container on the floor. Cadet Powell threw herself into the pit. She handled the stick like a pro, clamping the snake's body with a firm grip and carefully transferring the rubber reptile to the ventilated plastic bucket. Fearless job Powell.

A written block exam covering numerous topics was administered before lunch so the afternoon could begin with researching information for the Training Bulletin assignment. Distributing bulletins with valuable training information is common practice in the fire service. The details regarding this assignment were to have the cadets work in pairs while they researched, documented and photographed a new tool their fire department was to put into service. The tool type was their choice.  Once the information was collected, it was organized and placed into a one to two page file and distributed it electronically. 

The specifics of each bulletin were to photograph the tool as it lies and as it's used. The graphics would then be inserted into a document and squared so words could be typed around them. The document would contain a header identifying their fire department name and address with the body containing three to four photos surrounded by specific information regarding tool name, function, maintenance and inventory location. The cadet's last names served as their fire department names and addresses (for ease of grading). As an example, the Stevens Fire Department, located at 123 Braun Blvd, Camarillo Ca. 93010, created and distributed their training bulletin placing new bolt-cutters in service on their Squad.

A Combined Ops IAP briefing was conducted after all bulletins were distributed (sent to my email). The Combined Ops drill is an comprehensive incident involving all academy apparatus and all companies within the Battalion in a series of fire ground evolutions. A total of eight multi-company evolutions are planned with three to four complete during the morning and afternoon sessions.

The list of drill objectives is long, leaving each cadet with the potential to perform any skill learned since academy day one. Securing hydrant supply lines, deploying fire attack lines, forcing entry into a building, hoisting tools to an above ground floor, connecting to a building standpipe and riser, laddering a building, rescuing a victim out of a window and down that ladder, performing victim search and rescue, cutting roof ventilation openings, using handie-talkies to relay all information, responding to a firefighter down to name a few. This single drill connects all Firefighter 1 topics and brings the entire semester together.

Battalion 43's orientation was scheduled for 4:00 pm.  At the suggestion of Battalion 42, a higher emphasis was placed on physical fitness. Each incoming cadet was instructed to report to orientation in conservative workout clothing and be prepared to exercise. A single round of circuit training followed by a 2 mile formation run was selected as it meets the academy day one workout regiment. 42 was to escort 43 through this session with instructions to have each incoming member complete the objective. Jog, walk or crawl, everyone was instructed to finish.

A classroom session followed the workout. Academy expectations, scheduling and operations and uniform ordering deadlines were identified. Dozens of eyes were opened as the reality of early fitness and behavior in a structured environment set in. The body of Battalion 43 performed well, with a small handful having some shape to mold, either physically or mentally. Discipline yourselves 43, the beginning is right around the corner. The semester will start at mach speed and finish faster.

Battalion 42 was dismissed immediately following 43's orientation workout. However, prior to leaving the grounds they were to document and post their ideas for the proposed Fire Tech Student Library Project. Captain Ketaily has been the driving force behind this highly essential project. He rearranged furniture within the library to create a footprint which ideas can be drawn from, then turned to groups of students for plans. Each group was asked to document their vision on giant poster paper and tape that paper to the library walls in designated areas. 

I've examined several of the ideas posted and found a number of them attainable with drawings of computer stations, a projection unit and screen to show training videos with tables and chairs arranged to view the academy grounds. Very nice and all within in reason. Applause to every student who shared their view. 

I do, however, want to mention a drawing that stood out. It leaves no thought of library content, yet spoke volumes about student need. A simple circle, containing two words within its inner diameter, drawn on giant poster paper and taped up in plain view. WATER HEATER. If you recall back in week 2, Battalion 42 rescued two classrooms from water pouring through the ceilings. They went straight to work, creating a water catch basin from large salvage covers, mopping floors, moving and drying tables and chairs, then collecting and disposing all the broken ceiling debris.

The shower they took that morning, August 26th will end up as their last hot shower of the semester. The building system's unit that malfunctioned was the boiler, a primary component to used to heat water. While the public repeatedly posted their cold water challenges all over social media, 42 quietly showered in their own daily cold water event. Continuous inquiry leaves us with knowledge of product warranty negotiations between responsible parties. Really?...Fifty-five instructional periods have passed. That's thirty-four cold showers every morning bringing the Battalion's cold water challenge tally to one thousand, eight hundred seventy as I type...and the semester continues. If anyone following our blog having any ability or authority, please move to end these prolonged negotiations and schedule an install date. We will without a doubt shower you with warm apologies for the rant.

Company Officers requested a 5 mile pistol range run as a Wednesday morning workout. The request was approved with the expectation drill day set-up would be completed immediately upon return. Portable roof props, extra extension ladders, cadet rehab, an incident command post, a dispatching area, tables and whiteboards were all slated for the day's use.

An instructor's briefing started at 0820 in the Fire Technology Simulation Room. Numerous professional experts were on hand to act as mentors during evolutions. Represented agencies consisted of Los Angeles City, Ventura County, Ventura City, Santa Paula, Glendale, Arcadia, Sierra Madre and San Bernardino County Fire Departments. Experts were assigned to a given apparatus and allowed to select skills for the cadets to perform that would rightfully reflect the given situation or fire ground scenario.

Cadets stood at formation on the mat at 0850 listening to a safety briefing conducted by the drill's designated Safety Officer, Chief Arellanes. Drill rotation instructions and an introduction to the instructor line up followed. With no further questions, the group reported to their assigned locations and the dispatching began. "Structure Fire, Sector 38.......Engine 38, Engine 1, Engine 4, Task Force 12 respond to a reported structure fire at 100 Durley Avenue, at the Tower Apartments, Unit 224. Respond on command one."

All of the academy owned apparatus was staged in an adjacent parking lot to allow cadets to be driven to the scene with emergency lights. Upon arrival to the scene, cadets would dismount the apparatus and go to work. The basic use of the Incident Command System (ICS) was utilized, with companies performing as fire attack, ventilation group, roof division, medical group, rapid intervention crew, search and rescue group or the actual incident commander (IC).

The designation of "Tower or Durley IC" fell upon the unexpected players. Cadets Culp, Powell, Herrera R, Villavicenio, Minicucci and Wiatt all did a commanding job. Each of them managed multiple companies performing numerous assigned tasks, with all communications relayed by radio. Once a cadet would learn they would act as the designated commander, they would assign their crew to the next in company and report a designated area overlooking the incident operations, called the command post. A mentor awaited at that post to guide the new IC through the scenario, while an additional crew of cadets scribed all incident activity on a giant whiteboard for the IC to follow. An After Action Review with responding Company Officers was conducted at the end of every rotation while the remainder of the crews prepped the apparatus for the next evolution.

Combine Ops training is priceless.  There are so many true to life situations that arise from this drill. The frustrations of unsuccessful radio transmissions, being left in staging without an assignment, being the first arriving Officer trying to complete your size up of the situation as dispatch continues to update you with adverse information, dealing with a simultaneous fire and victim rescue, remaining in radio contact with adjacent companies, performing duties in close proximity of other responding crews, being reassigned to an alternate given task, requesting or ordering additional resources and staying abreast to incident real time and operations,all while monitoring the safety of your own crew. This is good stuff.

Thursday and Friday were spent teaching firefighter safety and survival skills. Statistics show over thirty thousand fire ground injuries for firefighters occurred during 2012. As a result, education in the area of firefighter safety has significantly increased. Firefighter Safety and Survival is a 16 hour certification course focused on developing a survival attitude and situational awareness to prevent firefighter emergencies while recognizing fire ground critical factors. Successful performance of twelve basic firefighter survival skills and the completion of two evolutions, geared to improve SCBA confidence, is expected.

Cadets started the lesson in the classroom for a couple of hours learning terminology, safe attitude development, survival concepts and self reliance during an actual emergency. Case study utilizing information from Green Sheets were covered. A Green Sheet is the overall analysis of an investigation involving a given firefighter fatality incident. They are painfully true as only facts are recorded. Great life safety learning tools. The Battalion was divided into two groups before lunch and relocated to either the tower for Mayday scenarios or the roof prop for profile narrowing situations.

"Mayday, mayday, this is Firefighter Gio with emergency traffic. I'm the nozzle man on Engine 38, I'm 50' inside the building on a 100' line with 3/4 air.".........."Copy Gio, 50' in, RIC is enroute."......"The roof has collapsed, heavy debris in my way."...."Copy, roof collapse, heavy debris, RIC from IC, give me an update"....."IC from Firefighter Gio (low air bell ringing in the back ground)..My air is low, alarming sounding, I'm still trying to follow the hoseline out"...."Copy Gio, low air, continuing your way out"....."Firefighter Gio from RIC"....."Firefighter Gio from RIC, how are you doing?" reply.

Radio transmissions filled the airways of channel for a couple of hours as crew rotated through their given scenario. The more radio talk performed the better the communications and thus the life line.  Multiple cadets stated the value of communications is key. Learning how to analyze your surroundings and calmly relay traffic regarding your situation gave each cadet a stronger foundation of self confidence. Cadet Gio was ultimately rescued, somber transmissions nonetheless. 

Profile narrowing is a method used to escape or pass through very small areas while remaining connected to a self-contained-breathing-apparatus.  A tunnel was constructed with a guillotine style slat inserted into the center, leaving about eighteen inches of clearance to belly slide under. Cadets would crawl through the tunnel, arrive to the slat and manipulate their body, while on air, under the obstacle. Smallest guy wins every time.

Instructors became more and more creative with the narrow areas cadets were to pass through. They had cadets working themselves through the structural framing members of the roof prop as if they were escaping from a residential fire. A few cadets were so narrow savvy, almost nothing held them back. Cadets Smith and Garcia moved from point A to B like liquid metal.

A late lunch had the group reporting to the tower at 1330 hours (1:30pm). A safety line presentation was made to demonstrate how each cadet would utilize the line for the remainder of the afternoon's drills of hose slides and ladder bailouts. These type of exit techniques are utilized for rapid escape from life threatening fire. When a firefighter resorts to this exit strategy, it's all or nothing, meaning set yourself at the window's edge, move away from approaching danger, take a strong grip on the hose or ladder, then slide down and hold on. However, for training purposes and the safety of cadets, a rope safety system was secured to each person actively moving through the skill. 

Instructors were methodical in their approach to ensure cadets had their hands and feet moving in sequence and in correct position. A number of cadets in a haste to exit, missed the step of wrapping their feet around the hose properly, leaving them with the potential for a dangerous fall. (absent their safety line of course). Hand placement on specific ladder rungs for a rapid exit was crucial and strategic. Once secured the cadet would swing their legs and body around, grip the ladder beams and slide to safety. Station breakdown and an after action of events closed the day out.

Friday started off with an early Officer's briefing with discussion of the last round of appointed leaders. The group came to a quick consensus with announcements to be made after the drill station set up of hose, apparatus and equipment at the roof prop. The remainder of course mandatory skills would be performed in and around that area. This day by far was the more difficult of the two. Cadets would soon find patience, talking yourself calm, remaining in control of your body and thought process would be the only path to success. The Battalion as a whole performed well with only a few cadets ready to throw in the towel. Frustrations and heart rates were high for a small few.

Two main events were set up with cadets rotating through all day. A staggered lunch was taken to keep the rounds moving with all cadets performing. Wall breaching and escaping was set up as an obstacle course. Cadets would start at a wooden sheeted wall, axe a hole large enough to escape through, make it to the other side, crawl twelve feet to a drywall sheeted wall, breach it using their feet, tear the gypsum away enough to squeeze through, then crawl down a tunnel containing dozens of wires strung from side to side at eye level. Cadets were forced to think and perform (swim) their way out of their entangled situation. 

The other event had cadets start at the nozzle on a charged hose line, communicate to the IC via a handie-talkie (HT) and feel their way towards the engine and safety utilizing hose couplings for direction. No easy task, as each cadet had to feel their way along a few hundred feet of tangle hose, up, over and through objects to safety. Daunting tasks with anticipation of arriving to the engine pump panel objective. The day finished with SCBA air emergencies and buddy breathing techniques during rescue. 

42, this week was more than memorable for a few of you. You were worked to extreme limits and held your own. A bitter sweet Friday, as all training related to structural firefighting is now complete. A good turnout cleaning is a future I'm predicting for each of you. With announcements made, Acting Battalion Officer Gratz, Alpha Company Officer Hamilton, Bravo Company Officer Brinkman, Charlie Company Officer Gullo and Delta Company Officer Villavicenio.

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 12  HazMat FRO, Venice Fire Case Study, Ventilation Review

An early morning Officers briefing was conducted Monday morning to divide apparatus and equipment maintenance assignments.  The activities of week 11 left a significant amount of wet hose positioned on the drying rack over the weekend.  Battalion 42's first weekly assignments were to return all apparatus to service immediately following workout, shower and report to the classroom in full uniform for the start of hazardous materials certification training . 

Hazardous materials are a part of everyday life in every city, county and state in the nation. There are millions of chemicals in existence, thousands classified as hazardous and hundreds as extremely hazardous. In California for 2012 alone, the tally for traffic accidents involving hazardous materials peeked at 1,300, the number of documented hazmat spills hit the 7,000 mark, businesses selling or using chemicals exceeded 140,000 and the volume of petroleum products, hazardous materials and waste shipped across the state weighed in over 1,000,000 tons. Because of its widespread presence, coupled with the human factor of error, hazardous materials training is a mandatory life and environmental safety component of firefighter academies. During week twelve, Battalion 42 experienced their first exposure to hazardous materials recognition and incident mitigation. 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations categorize hazardous materials training into various levels, Awareness, Operational, Technician and Specialists. The Operational level served as the cadet focus this week.  Hazardous Materials First Responder Operational (HazMat FRO) training involves 24 hours of instruction to include lecture, interactive group activity, tabletop exercises and the participation in a simulated hazardous materials event or release.

The first day of FRO started and finished in the classroom.  An interactive lecture had the cadets first learning how to recognize potential and actual incidents during transportation and fixed facility storage.  The various classes of hazardous materials was covered as well as the containers those materials would either be stored or transported in. A little in class competition involving container recognition gave Delta bragging rights as Cadet Minyard solidified the win. Good job, winner, winner, HazMat dinner!

The ability to safely isolate a scene, make proper notifications and conduct an initial identification and assessment of a haz mat situation was discussed Monday afternoon. A book named, the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) was the tool of choice during this lesson. The ERG is a reference staple utilized during the initial phases of an incident and carried on just about every responding apparatus. The pages are colored and categorized allowing the user to quickly reference product information, perimeter control recommendations, first aid and protective actions to consider or implement. 

FRO day one ended with a worksheet group exercise.  Each squad divided a series of ERG related fill-in questions.  Crews were tasked with researching all answers using the ERG, documenting those answers on their worksheet, then sharing the answers with their individual groups.

The topic of discussion during the second day of FRO surrounded initiating command. Basic Incident Command System (ICS) guidelines related to Haz Mat emergencies were covered. A haz mat checklist containing information and action needs for first responding companies was distributed. Cadets referred to the checklist and their ERGs as they planned for their afternoon exercise.

Product identification, hazard assessment and action planning are part of every haz mat emergency. To offer the Battalion a greater perspective when managing their upcoming FRO exercise, a tour of the academy haz mat props was conducted. Their incident was to involve an active leak of a material dripping in a solid stream from a container in HazMat Land, with a plant worker down (unconscious) nearby. Weather real time, with winds at 30 mph and temperatures in the 80's.

To show the importance of wind and protective action distances, the group was escorted the the roof of the training center tower, 6 stories up.  With their ERGs and checklists in hand, each cadet scanned the area pondering the how to of public notification of surrounding businesses and schools, the possible evacuation of those employees and students, the traffic plan for evacuees or responders, wind shifts and the possible shut down of an airport, a freeway or shopping mall.  The longer they stood there together analyzing the events of incident management, the more reality set in with thoughts of a true emergency.

Upon returning to the classroom, cadets were shown how to gauge distances for setting control zones. These zones are designated areas during a haz mat emergency. The Exclusion Zone immediately surrounds the spill and is the most dangerous. Zones farther away become increasingly safer.  The middle zone where crews are cleaned free of contaminants is called the Contamination Reduction Zone and the farthest from the spill and safest zone for responders is the Support Zone.  The Support Zone is where crews dress and prep prior to making attempts at entering a hazardous area to perform victim rescue.  

This particular tabletop exercise was expanded to give the group a full view of haz mat incident operations. Assignments were randomly divided by squads. Engine company first responders, hazardous materials team responders, a haz mat group supervisor, crews to make the rescue (entry teams), authors of the action plan to be implemented, authors of the safety plan to be followed, researchers for the details related to the type of protective clothing to be worn and lastly staff assigned to assist the incident commander in dealing with the press and representatives from affected agencies. A significant amount of role play and performance.

Cadets Wiatt and Minyard served as the leaders of initial responding companies, with Wiatt taking the primary role. The two worked together with their crews to isolate the area, identify the leaking product number and request a haz mat response. Cadet Garcia arrived on scene taking command and functioning as Durley IC. Cadet Locke performed as the Haz Mat Group Supervisor, communicating between her entry team crews and Cadet Wiatt, now acting as Operations. Cadet Hill led the planning section, working with his crew to write the Incident Action Plan (IAP). Cadet Gratz took control with his group guiding them through referencing technical information related to product behavior and recommended rescuer clothing. Cadet Smith served as the Officer in charge of drafting the Site Safety Plan and message and Cadets Powell and Minicucci acted as the leads for agency notifications and press releases.

By the event's end, crews set incident perimeters and control zones, safely rescued the plant worker, researched the appropriate protective clothing and dressed accordingly, authored a Site Safety Plan and an IAP, documented all necessary potential notifications, medically monitored and documented entry team activity and conducted two press releases. Great job 42, FRO day 2 complete with day 3 scheduled for Thursday.

Wednesday served as a day break away from FRO. LAFD Captain Ketaily was onsite to discuss case study of a fire his crew and city had recently responded to. The Venice Fire was an incident in Los Angeles where a storage facility erupted in fire and burned throughout the night, injuring eight firefighters. The fire is still under investigation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Cadets listened intently as Captain Ketaily described the incident as it grew.  Dispatching, responding company actions, building description, challenges of forcible entry and gaining access to burning areas, the intense heat and fire's behavior held every cadets attention. Following the interactive discussion of Venice Incident events, Captain Ketaily relocated the Battalion to the Fire Tech Simulation Room where an electronic simulation of the fire was displayed on the projection screen.  

The Fire Tech Simulation Room is a technical oriented room set up to show active moving footage of self created scenarios.  A given address is utilized, then smoke, fire and fireground sounds are added. A simulation of the Venice storage facility fire was created so Battalion 42 could practice their incident management and radio communication skills.

The Sim Room has two areas, the classroom and a radio and control room. Cadets sat in the classroom and monitored operations as Cadet Gratz and his crew members acted as the Incident Commanders, with Cadets Powell, Minicucci and Wiatt acting as the incident scribes. In the control room stood Cadets Giovinazzo, Hill, Koehler and Hamilton with Whitby serving as scribe.  Venice IC, Gratz, would relay radio orders as cadets in the control room responded with incident related radio transmissions. An incredibly valuable case study, as narrated by an on scene Fire Captain, of a real time fire ground situation in which eight LAFD firefighters were injured. It doesn't come truer than that. Thank you Captain Ketaily.

An impromptu visit by Ed French, the founder of Oxnard College Regional Fire Academy drew everyone's attention. Mr. French was forward thinking with his efforts in building our program and personally recruited Captain Ketaily as an inaugural instructor. Reminiscing stories of the true early days, as in the Academy literal week 1 were shared with the Battalion.

Wednesday afternoon was a review of ventilation techniques conducted at the roof prop. Squads assisted one another as they rotated through chain saw cutting operations.  One cadet would sound the roof to ensure its structural integrity while another carrying a chain saw followed.  The two would arrive to the designated area to be cut, perform the task of opening the roof, turn around, sound and exit the roof. A very productive session of cadets learning by doing and learning by teaching.

A homework assignment was given days before and due on FRO day three.  Cadets were charged with taking a photograph of a hazardous material during transport.  The vehicle transporting the material could be photographed anywhere, in a parking lot, at a delivery dock, on a roadway rolling or parked. The photos would serve as the focus Thursday morning.

Cadets brought their photographs and internet capable devices to class for the last morning of FRO. Checklists were utilized as the photos were projected on the screen.  Google earth was used to go to a given location to pre-plan a hazardous material incident with the photographed vehicle as the focus. A number of cadets had varying angles of a gasoline tanker dispensing fuel at a gas station in close proximity to the academy.

Ironically Google Earth had a similar photo, making for real world planning for an event at this fuel station. The scenario had the tanker cutting a corner too tight and contacting a metal yellow painted pole and causing damage to his fuel filled container.  Cadets problem solved their way through what to do when 4,500 gallons of fuel has the potential to spill out. How do they close off the station, manage the fast food restaurant across the driveway, deal with drivers entering the parking lot, suppress the vapors, contain the runoff......and the list goes on. Group work completed the lesson with pre-planning mitigation efforts of each squad's photos. Certification paperwork, roster completion and the FRO written exam finished the morning.

After lunch, the Battalion worked to set up the second FRO exercise.  An obstacle course consisting of a number of stations was to be completed by each cadet.  Specialized clothing was required for the event. Clothing types used during haz mat incident mitigation vary in levels. Structural turnouts used for firefighting is considered level D, splash protection jumpsuits with the wearer using an air purifying respirator is level C and that same splash protection using self-contained-breathing-apparatus (SCBA) is level B. However, none of the aforementioned attire was acceptable for this obstacle course.

Only level A clothing could be worn during this particular exercise.  Level A attire is a fully encapsulated suit with the wearer breathing through an SCBA.  The environment within the suit can be harsh as the rescuer holds the potential to overheat or become dehydrated from profuse sweating while performing in the suit.  Medical monitoring before and after use and constant communications during use is of high priority. Each cadet was escorted by another cadet as they made their way through the course.

Performing skills in an over-sized suit and gloves while sweating enough to drop a fast few pounds is no easy task. The objectives throughout the course consisted of unscrewing the lid of an over-sized plastic drum, placing it on its side, then rolling the adjacent leaking drum into it. From there the cadet would walk towards a bucket of tools, tie a hoisting knot to the handle then walk to an upstairs level and hoist the bucket to a metal catwalk landing. After removing the rope, the cadet would carry that bucket to a bolted metal connector, tighten those bolts, place the bucket in a designated area and walk to the next objective.

An uneven surface of rocks was used as a path to the stairs leading to a valve to be turned 90 degrees. The cadet would turn the valve, then turn around, travel down the stairs, walk over to a series of other valves actively spraying water and make the best attempts at controlling the spray. From there they would walk a short distance, stop and give a radio update on the status of the bottled air pressure and continue to the next task. Across the road each cadet had to dig a dirt berm, shovel dirt into a bucket, empty the bucket and strike a telephone pole 5 times using a sledge hammer. A team awaited at the finish line to assist each cadet with clothing removal, water replacement and vital sign updating. Once the entire Battalion completed the series of tasks the group jumped in to decontaminate and wash all suits and boots, stow all equipment and document all monitoring.

Quite an eventful week with the best efforts at keeping the dry topic of hazardous materials interesting and interactive. Great job 42. Your role playing and desire to learn and participate in activities is exceptional. Your team building continues to grow and show, leaving much to speak of. Thank you.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series- Battalion 42

Week 11       Auto Extrication, Flammable Fuels - Foam Application; Propane Fire Suppression

A collision data inquiry from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) shows a 2012 report identifying 2,758 fatal traffic collisions and 159,696 injury collisions for the year. This week Battalion 42 learned the techniques used to gain access to those victims needing rescue or recovery while trapped in a entangled vehicle following a traffic collision.

Vehicle extrication, as explained in Wikipedia, is the process of removing a vehicle from around a person who has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, when conventional means of exit are impossible or inadvisable.  A delicate approach is needed to minimize injury to the victim during the extrication. The first two days of week 11 were dedicated to the extrication process. Course delivery followed the guidelines of State Fire Training with curriculum material coming from the 16 hour certification course named, Auto Extrication.

After workout early Monday morning, the cadets assisted with tool and equipment set-up in an area we call, the Bleve Dirt Lot.  Vehicles slated for destruction were previously identified and placed in manner allowing full access to all sides during the extrication drills. The number of vehicles per battalion is determined by the number of cadets within that battalion. Thirty-four cadets were able to tear, pry, strike and cut into fourteen later model vehicles, made available by Ventura County Fire Department and Double R Towing.  A big thank you.

The course started off with classroom lecture covering concepts and theory related to various vehicle types and anatomy, rescue tools and equipment, tool limitations and proven methods of entry. Following the lesson and discussions, the group formed up at the Bleve dirt lot for instructor led demonstrations.

A state certified instructor was assigned and remained dedicated to each company.  A number of stations were set-up so instructors could demonstrate the use of a given tool, then allow cadets to follow up with the application of that tool. The areas to be practiced involved vehicle stabilization utilizing metal posts with an inner adjustable sleeve called struts, cribbing and step chocks and gaining access utilizing hydraulic power tools such as spreaders, cutters and rams. The general public refers to these hydraulic power tools as the Jaws of Life.

As the companies watched the demonstrations, instructors interacted with questions and comment related to technique tips the cadets would soon put into play.  Throughout the afternoon, cadets would practice cutting and removing vehicle roofs, clipping a section of and flipping the roofs, removing (popping) doors, rolling dashboards, jacking dashboards, breaking glass, cutting the entire supporting metal between front and rear doors (B-post blowout), creating a third door in the absence of one and pretty much completely demolishing any vehicle they could get their hands on. They had a destructive blast!

Tuesday morning started with an 0700 leadership transition meeting. Cadet Whitby, who served as the Acting Battalion Officer and led the group through Rescue Systems 1 training returned the Battalion Officer post to Cadet Minicucci. Other transitions were at the company level.  Alpha Company Officer Cleary, Bravo Company Officer Gorski, Charlie Company Officer Locke and Delta Company Officer Minyard were appointed and introduced to the Battalion.

Morning workout, tool and equipment set-up followed up with another short classroom lecture started Auto X day two. Hybrid vehicles was the topic for discussion. Even though we are logistically we are unable to acquire such vehicles for extrication, the lesson was valuable knowledge nonetheless, offering problem solving thoughts while managing collisions involving them.

The practical component of this day had cadets working in companies as if they were assigned to the first arriving engine or truck crews.  The engine company would arrive to a vehicle on its side and was tasked with vehicle assessment and stabilization.  The truck company would come in next, assess and determine their plan of action, then go to work to extricate the manikins inside.

The first rotation had Alpha Company performing as the engine crew with Bravo Company as the truck crew.  Officers Cleary and Gorski did well communicating with each other during the combined rescue efforts of their crews. Officers were allowed to make their own decisions as they guided their crew through the exercise. An After Action Review was conducted at the end of the drill. An analysis of each Officer's thought process was discussed and expanded on. Once all actions were reviewed, Companies Charlie and Delta were given their chance to perform with Officers Locke and Minyard calling the shots.

The course ended with evaluation by company.  Each group was given a scenario with a trapped victim requiring extrication. Companies were to perform all tasks required to disentangle the trapped victim in addition to managing patient care (another cadet) during the extrication. Company Charlie secured first place with their commanding rescue efforts being awarded with the finest articles of junk instructors could muster up from the vehicle pool. Good job Charlie.

Auto X ended with a lengthy clean-up and documentation phase.  All vehicle metal was properly stowed in designated containers, vehicles were relocated for tow yard pickup, debris cleared from the ground, vehicle identification numbers recorded and tools cleaned and bedded. An additional assignment was issued to remove all upholstery from two pick up trucks for the next round of drills scheduled Thursday. Cadets were encouraged and allowed to grab their tool of choice to complete the assignment. Some worked methodically with attempts to save a bench seat while others relied on brute force showing off their best auto body shop destructive skills.

LAFD Captain Mike Ketaily is the primary administrator of our Fire Tech/Academy/EMT Facebook page. He does an outstanding job of marketing our programs in addition to distributing information regarding area fire departments and their open application processes. As a result, cadets learned the City of Torrance was accepting applications in limited number to take effect Wednesday morning at 0730.

An 0650 Battalion briefing was conducted to poll the group on the number of cadets wishing to apply.  Eighteen members filed into our Fire Tech Simulation Room where eighteen computers sat at the ready.  The cadets signed in and typed away as the deadline time approached, each working diligently to submit all required information. By 0815, half of the Battalion completed circuit training workouts while the other submitted resumes.  

Once the Sim Room detail was complete, crews cleaned up to prepare for a classroom delivery on Flammable Fuels and Suppression Techniques.  Fuel types, extinguishing techniques and suppression products were covered. Cadets learned the differences between foam used for flammable liquids verses the foam used for ordinary combustibles.  They were taken to our Hazardous Materials classroom lab and shown the reaction differences between higher and lower foam concentrates.  By the day's end the Battalion was well prepped for foam application training scheduled the next day.

Thursday by far was the hottest day of the week. Not by weather temperature but by fuel temperature as cadets would experience live propane fire suppression techniques. The day's drills were conducted in the same fashion as drills held in earlier weeks. A four station rotation in the morning and two station in the afternoon. Morning station duration times were set at 45 minutes with afternoon times set at 90 minutes.

Foam operations and propane ground school were the morning topics.  Crews at the first station sprayed Class B foam on a commercial trailer utilizing varying application techniques to suppress a liquid fuel fire. The second station had cadets spreading a thicker blanket of foam used for vapor suppression.  Cadets not on either of the Class B hose lines or foam nozzles staffed the foam eductor set up a distance away. Eductors are devices attached to the hose with the ability to draw concentrate from its container and mix it with the passing water. Class A foam was introduced at the third station. Cadets would set this mixture to a concentrate much less than that of Class B foam. Nozzle application techniques were practiced on an upright railcar prop.

The fourth station of the morning prepared the group for afternoon propane burning.  Propane ground school teaches the companies how to set up their water charged hose lines in a manner allowing an organized and unison approach to the burning objective.  During ground school no fuel is burning. Only the techniques of approach or managing burst lines are covered. This type of training allows for safer and more productive afternoon sessions when the heat and fuel is on.

The two afternoon drill stations consisted of vehicle fire suppression techniques on the north side of Bleve and flammable gas fire (propane) suppression techniques on the south side. Wood cut up from earlier drills at the roof prop was utilized to stuff and ignite the pick-up trucks prepared the day before.  Re-ignition attempts were challenging and impeded crew rotation. We will reconsider the use of a more reliable burning product in future semesters as not every crew had the opportunity to perform vehicle fire suppression techniques. However the station was overall productive letting a smaller number of crews extinguish the vehicle fires.

On the south side of Bleve sat the propane tree, a device built to dispense the flammable gas at a given level. Cadets organized themselves at various hose lines and advanced toward the burning fuel in unison while following hand signals of the cadre leaders. Hand signals were most appropriate because the roaring, thunderous sound of the gas releasing and igniting was very loud. The tree burned with flame lengths one would perceive as impossible to manage. However experienced fuel cadre members guided the crews in with confidence, allowing each cadet to get up close and personal with a protected view of a controlled burning environment. Nothing but awesome statements during the day's After Action Reviews. The training is a keeper.

The heat was on this week, literally.  The Battalion photo shown in this blog was the group picture taken at the end of burning. A protection line was actively spraying the backs of cadets as they posed for the photo.

The week ended with a family celebration and performance of tasks learned. A hearty potluck with food donations from all variations.  Incredibly filling and delicious. Pulled pork, meatballs, tri-tip, pasta salad, salsa, chips and the like, as well as desserts and cookies you had to keep your eye out for were tasty enough to keep me refilling my plate.  Complements to all the chefs.

What a great week 42.  I am absolutely enjoying myself as I monitor your continued successes. You are doing a fine job and have every reason to stand proud, just think of what you have accomplished so far. Stay the course, graduation is on the horizon.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 10    Rope Rescue Systems 1 Training

Academy blogs will be posted every Sunday, with a single week as the focus. Combining weeks 10 and 11 resulted in an unusually long read and thus will be kept separated. Week 10 alone spanned five days. So my early disclaimer for this Sunday's lengthy blog, pour a beverage, find a comfortable seat and live vicariously as a cadet as you read on.

Week 10 was an extension of the low angle rope rescue systems, LARRO training the cadets completed during week 8.  Rope Rescue Systems 1, RS1 is a course designed to train cadets in hazard recognition, equipment use and techniques required to operate safely and effectively at structural collapse incidents involving the collapse or failure of light-framed construction, heavy wall construction, high angle rope rescue and confined space rescues not requiring a permit.

The course is a forty hour state certification course and a prerequisite to performing as a member of a fire department Urban Search and Rescue Team.  Training covers four areas, rope rescue systems, heavy lifting and moving of objects, ladder rescue systems and emergency building shoring techniques. The course was conducted in a modular format with groups of cadets spending an entire day at a given station. A three modular format was chosen for this semester as it was the most cost effective and allowed for a more flexible use of instructors. 

At 0800 Monday morning, cadets sat in class, dressed in uniform, listening to the orientation and introduction phases of RS1 Training.  Within a couple of hours, the group would find themselves at the knot rack, testing once again on their ability to tie the same knots required for LARRO during week 8.  As required by the State, cadets must tie their way into RS1 with a minimum score of 80%.  Once the Battalion passed knot tying, RS1 Ground School began.

In ground school cadets are shown the elementary techniques and concepts of each of the 4 instructional areas. Companies stayed together and rotated through each of the fifty minute stations. At Shoring, cadets were introduced to various tools used for building, measuring and cutting.  A table designated specifically for cutting was displayed. Cadets would later utilize this table to make the cut requested by the group's build team.

At Heavy Lifting and Moving of Objects, dubbed Heavy, cadets learned the various classes of levers and how and when to use them.  They reviewed methods of stacking pieces of 2x4 and 4x4 wood at 18 inch length, called cribbing, and how this cribbing could set the foundation for bracing or holding an object weighing thousands of pounds. Over at Ropes, crews reviewed the use of anchor slings, pulleys as a mechanical advantage and converting a lowering system into a raising system and lastly at Packaging, companies practiced attaching harnesses to rescuers and two victims types, able and unable.

The 3-Modular format started Tuesday. Companies spent the entire day at either Ropes, Shoring or Heavy, with Ladder Rescue Systems remaining dark, not scheduled for the day. A comparison of challenges between RS1 instructional areas would find Ropes to be the greatest for most cadets because hanging or descending from a 5 story tower isn't something you would normally do everyday. It certainly made for the best still and moving footage while watching cadets overcome their fears of height and the reliance of their own skill.

The rope station began with cadets practicing the techniques of basic rope rescue systems set-up.  Crews members worked together to attach each component to the system.  The first round of set-up would focus on two system types, a lowering system utilizing an anchor at a higher point and a safety system called a belay line attached at a lower point. These systems would support the cadets first round of repelling with an eight plate, a hand held metal devise allowing rope to pass through.

Repelling with an eight plate for the first time, especially from a 5 story tower, relies heavily on cadet confidence and skill, a qualified reassuring instructor and crew members at constant attention while tending to belay and lowering lines.  Cadets Stevens, Cleary and Hebert were among the first few to go over.  Each would position themselves at the edge of the rooftop, then work their way over the side, clinging to the rope with a grip strong enough to show arm muscles and pumping blood vessels. They listened intently as the instructors talked them through the sequence of tasks to accomplish a controlled descent to include locking off at a given level on the way down.

Locking off was a task in itself.  Cadets would walk their way down the face of the tower, then somewhere in the area of the fourth floor window, secure the rope around the eight plate, let go of everything, lean back and spread their arms wide in a relaxed fashion. Cadets Hill and Gratz locked off simultaneously, high-fived each other over a job well done, then savored the moment as a crew.

I stood at the fourth floor window recording Cadet Pliss as he was descending. I told him the footage of his methodical tying off techniques would later be used to show future cadets what lies ahead for them in RS1.  Good job Pliss. For the remainder of Rope scheduled days, the first part of every morning had cadets repelling from the tower from a number of different approaches, with every cadet conquering their anxieties and repelling techniques, many with the look of awesomeness as they climbed back up the stairs to the rooftop to work the next rotation.

Once repelling techniques were complete, companies built systems on the fifth floor to prepare for Ambulatory Victim Pick-Offs (an able rescuer retrieving an able victim).  Crews controlled the descent of their rescuer using a brake bar and belay line.  Cadet rescuers would walk their way down two floors of the building, traversing one window and entering into the next to greet the victim, another cadet, staged on the third floor. Here's where assignments turned even more challenging.  

The rescuer would attach a harness onto the victim while the crews above completed the conversion from a lowering system to a raising system.  Systematic securing of harness straps played a key role during this evolution to ensure rescuer and victim comfort during the haul (raise) to the floor above. The rescuer would assist the victim to the window sill while communicating with crews above. When ready, the rescuer and victim were slowly hauled up the face of the tower.  

On many occasions, both rescuer and victim were suspended from the lines three floors up while above crews reset their raising systems.  Quite the photo op as the two waited, the rescuer with his/her boots planted on the tower's face and the victim secured and dangling with arms and legs loose. LAFD Captain Ketaily took a perfect picture depicting the environment and posted it on Facebook.  Nothing but smiles from the rescuing Cadet Pelkola and victim Cadet Dominguez. The photo displayed in this blog has Cadets Minicucci and Barassi on the left watching the rescue efforts of Cadets Gratz and Galbraith on the right. A great example of the use of mechanical advantage as those two are size of offensive linemen and were being hauled by crew members a fraction of their size.

Horizontal litter basket operations with tending lines kept the companies working as teams. One cadet would be secured into the basket while up crews hauled and down crews kept tension on tag lines.  This by no means was an easy task for down crews.  Every one of them with facial expressions showing the demands of physical strength as they pulled to keep the basket a level distance from the building during raising or lowering operations.  As Cadet Garcia called the orders for line tenders, Cadets Giovinazzo, Powell, Smith and Herrera R. worked with all spent to keep Cadet Brinkman level and positioned for a safe entry into an above floor window.

Heavy began with cadets raising, stabilizing, moving then lowering a 4000 pound single block of concrete.  As with all RS1 stations, teamwork is key. One cadet was assigned to call the shots while others used pry tools to lift the block the slightest amount so the first wooden wedge could be placed underneath. Lifting measures continued until the requested height was achieved and appropriate cribbing methods were demonstrated.  They also worked to carefully raise, stabilize, FLIP and lower this same block.

A number of other heavy objects were used.  A combination of concrete slabs had the cadets working together to position the slabs at staggered levels to make access and retrieve simulated victims. Another assigned task was to lift a slap to a level high enough to place poles underneath. These poles would serve as the rolling mechanism to relocate the concrete pad. Arcadia Fire Captain Twitchell stood on the pad and raised his arm in the air showing his best impression of George Washington crossing the Deleware river while the cadets worked in sequence to roll his concrete boat along. Picture perfect.

A day at Heavy finished off with rescue breaking and breaching.  Crews built a wooden clad 4'x4'x2' hollow platform called a biscuit.  Contents used to impede breaching were placed inside the hollow area. The biscuits were inserted into concrete tunnels as a barrier from one side of the tunnel to another. The group was divided into two teams, each team using a variety of hand tools to hack, cut and breach their way through the barrier. Once a hole was made large enough to crawl through, all team members would access the other side and win bragging rights.  Lots of competitive fun.

The Emergency Building Shores Module is one utilizing basic construction skills.  The day started off with a 90 minute classroom lecture introducing cadets to shoring concepts.  Once the lecture was complete the group moved to the Shoring prop where they began utilizing the onsite cutting station and measuring tools.  Wooden assemblies used to brace collapsed structural members of a building, called timber spot shores, were on display for the crews to examine. Their first assignment, tear down these shores and rebuild them as you found them. 

Three spot shore types were the morning focus.  One group placed spot shores using wedges, another using a metal jack assembly and the last using metal clamps to hold the shore in its position.  Crews did well setting their shore as they adjusted its height and stability. The afternoon consisted of constructing two post horizontal shores, wooden assemblies constructed to support wider span areas, and window and door shores.

The last RS1 module taught techniques of using ladders combined with rope rescue systems as a life-saving method of gaining access. Cadets learned how to build ladder "A" frames and attach a rope system capable of lowering a rescuer into a narrow area such as manhole or similar opening.  A rubber baby was placed in the simulated hole for the groups to rescue. Many cadets performing the best rubber baby CPR ever while being lifted to safety by their crew members. Other ladder framing assemblies had the cadets problem solving during rescue attempts. Ladder angle and position relies on the proper set-up of components and anchors. Crews found themselves on several occasions reanalyzing their systems to ensure safe operations throughout the given scenario.

Afternoon ladder operations would have the cadets securing one of their crew members to a wire basket stretcher attached to a long straight ladder.  The group worked together to vertically lift the rescuer litter basket with victim secured to an above level, as crews up top pulled the rescue basket to safety. Cadet Villavicenio had full faith in his lifting crew, Cadets Galbraith, Gratz, Locke and Hill and his pulling crew, Cadets Culp, Pliss, Barassi and Minyard, as they moved him from the ground floor up and through the second story window.

The week closed off with the breakdown and inventory of all equipment. The written test was administered and student task books completed. A long memorable week with experiences the cadets will share for years.

Walk tall 42 and maintain your strength in unity.  Your bond is unprecedented and will serve as the driving force for your overall success. The volume of material you've covered since Academy Day 1 has been comprehensive, spanning over a dozen topics and containing greater than a hundred tasks. Be proud of your accomplishments. Good job.

Captain Crudo


Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 10  Rope Rescue Systems 1 Training

Due to unforeseen circumstances the week 10 RS1 blog will be combined with week 11's blog. Stay tuned as rope systems was an incredible week, challenging cadets from every angle (pun intended).  Thank you for reading.      Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 9   Fire Academy Accreditation, Basic ICS, LARRO Reinforcement, SCBA Finals and Ventilation

This week was the Oxnard College Regional Fire Academy's (OCRFA) most important week in years. OCRFA is an Accredited Regional Training Program.  As a stipulation to maintaining or boasting such a status, the Academy must be re-accredited every five years. Monday, October 13, 2014 was our scheduled inspection.

Cadets arrived Monday morning at their usual 0615-0630 time.  They set their gear in formation and workout circuit at and around the tower.  The Battalion stretched as an 0700 Officer's briefing was conducted with discussion focused on the orders of the day and the Accreditation team visit.  Battalion Officer Minicucci, Acting Battalion Officer Whitby, Alpha Company Officer Garcia, Bravo Company Officer Paxton, Charlie Company Officer Rodriguez and Delta Company Officer Smith all made note of the importance of this particular day.  

The Battalion's orders were to attend Basic Incident Command System (ICS) Training.  This training is presented in a classroom format with table top discussion and interactive case study. The course named, I-200 Basic ICS, is a twelve hour State Fire Training certification course. Course material covers the structure and function of the five sections the IC system.  Sections such as, Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics and Finance.  All utilized when managing emergency incidents.  

The Academy Administration's orders were to meet with and escort State Fire Training's Accreditation Team through the various areas of the academy program.  After the initial meeting to determine our method of operations, the team was given a tour of classrooms, library, hazardous materials training room, Emergency Medical Technician skills room, the fire simulator computer rooms and lastly Battalion 42's academy classroom.  The team initiated discussion with the group to poll cadet educational backgrounds while encouraging each of them to comment with opinion of their overall academy experience thus far.  The vocal members of 42 were well spoken and later receive positive review from the site team.  

The accreditation team attended a mid-day Fire Technology Advisory Committee Meeting and were able to generate conversation with the local agency Fire Chiefs attending.  Academy reviews were positive and in support of our highly reputable program.  Following the meeting the team divided, some finishing the tour of the grounds and equipment and the other to review academy files.  

By the day's end the Academy Coordinator, Fire Technology Director, Dean of Career Technology Education, Vice President of Instruction and the President of the College sat and listened to the results of the accreditation inspection. All positive with only one area requiring improvement, securing full time administrative support.  

The Battalion Officers were notified of the accreditation success and relayed the message to the group at summary prior to dismissal.  Additional instructions relayed at summary related to the preparation for SCBA finals to be conducted Tuesday afternoon.  The group elected to come together for structured donning practice after the release from I-200 and before departing for home. Another example of the incredible team work and team building this Battalion shares daily.

The group started Tuesday morning with a 4 mile formation run.  A long time coming as the last Battalion run was more than a week ago.  Cadence and pace remained for the most part. Being at the ready continues to be a focus.  During this run, two companies were dispatched at separate times.  Both to medical aids, each aid with its own set of priorities.  

Charlie was dispatched to an actively seizing toddler and Alpha to a subject not breathing, police on scene with CPR in progress on an infant. Assignments to be submitted on behalf of the dispatches include reports identifying call type, location, cross street, additional instructions while enroute, signs and symptoms, patient assessment questions and treatment of the given chief complaint. Each crew member was to submit a report and include a narrative summary of the call's events.

An 0900 report to the academy classroom had the cadets continuing with Basic ICS. Documentation of the previous day's events were being recorded by the administration, in addition to preparing for the afternoon SCBA finals and Low Angle Rope Rescue Operational (LARRO) reinforcement training.  As a gesture of thanks, the academy provided lunch for the Battalion for the professional representation displayed during the State's visit to the classroom.

Following lunch, academy apparatus was positioned to accommodate LARRO reinforcement training for the group while SCBA evaluations were conducted in the App Bay for each cadet. The class roster was used as the order of rotation.  Cadets positioned their gear for testing while another waited "on deck".  Rotations continued throughout the afternoon with only a small handful of cadets requiring the one remediation voucher approved for the end of the day. Chief Warner observed as retesting commenced, stating she was praying all would end successfully.

As the evaluations continued during the afternoon, LARRO reinforcement retained attention for waiting cadets.  This drill is all about review and conducted in format supporting peer interaction.  Each company was given two assignments.  The first, to build an entire rope rescue system, utilizing apparatus anchors, all equipment and safety measures while performing a simulated over the side 3 firefighter rescue of a manikin placed a distance away. The second to record a training video identifying the what and how of a given component within the system the company just assembled. The videos were to be shared by the Battalion and used as study reference.

Examples of the video assignments included, Squad 1: Belay system; Squad 2: Lowering system; Squad 3: Attaching belay and main lines to a firefighter rescue harness; Squad 4: Donning a rescue harness on a victim; Squad 5: 3:1 inline system changeover; Squad 6: 3:1 change of direction system changeover; Squad 7: Litter basket prep for 3 firefighters over the side; Squad 8: Litter basket lashing for victims.  Cadets did their best to take advantage of this hands on session in an effort to prepare for next week's Rope Rescue Systems 1 training.

As for the successful completion of SCBA finals, they did it.  The entire Battalion was able to meet the challenge of donning all personal protective clothing in one minute, then follow up with an additional one minute don of their self-contained-breathing-apparatus.  Good job.  A Battalion photo was taken.  The photo is displayed as this week's blog announcement.

Ventilation training filled the remainder of the week.  Both Wednesday and Thursday mornings consisted of significant preparation to accommodate the each of the day's 4 drill station rotation.  Wednesday, cadets set up rehab, transported tools and equipment, loaded 40 sheets of OSB and 20 2x4 studs onto a utility truck, then followed that truck to the roof prop where they unloaded the wood inventory stacking it in its designated area. By the end of Thursday, at total of 76 sheets of OSB and 30 studs would be replaced.

Classroom lecture for ventilation tactics was postponed to Thursday to allow for a 30 minute open discussion between the Battalion and Chief Warner.  The topic? Academy operations and experience.  Cadets were encouraged to speak openly to share opinion of academy daily operations and offer solutions to any rising issues.  

Lots of constructive criticism, all positive, most manageable.  Numerous cadets voiced opinion that a higher emphasis on the demands for fitness, knot tying ability and attention to detail be addressed at the academy orientation held prior to the semester. All cadets approve of the hands on approach and the advocacy of a Coordinator in the midst of dozens of cadre members.

Spring 2015 Fire Academy applications are being accepted as I type.  Academy orientation will be scheduled and held in the first part of November, and at the request of 42 will be restructured.  A number of cadets have asked to attend.  It may open some eyes.

By 0930 all companies were dressed and standing in formation at the roof prop as they listened to the orders of the day for ventilation rotations.  A normal four station rotation was scheduled.  The roof prop is limited in size so station planning is strategic.  On the prop were two stations of vertical ventilation with chain saws.  To the west, at the "Ming" structure a forcible entry station using a rotary saw and across the street at the burn prop a search and rescue station utilizing charged hose lines as a guide to rescue a downed firefighter.

To improve the quality of instruction, vertical ventilation stations are categorized and set up a distance apart. This allows for better hearing ability during instruction and keeps focus on the cutting operations of a given roof.  For example, techniques on a flat or panelized roof will differ from that on a pitched roof.  On Wednesday, cadets sounded and cut the panelized areas of the prop and on Thursday they sounded and cut the pitched areas.

Companies did well working together as they used hand tools to determine the structural integrity of the walking surface.  They supported one another during cutting operations by gripping the waist belt of the sawyer cutting.  Once the hole was cut as instructed, the crew would louver the opening and punch through the ceiling below.

At the burn prop, search and rescue techniques were enhanced.  During this round of searching, crews would function as if they were the rapid intervention crew assigned to rescue a downed firefighter, following a charged hose line, communicating with each other along the way as they crawled or walked towards the sounding alarm device.  Decisions to be made when air supplies run low challenged crews to remain strategic.

At the Ming area, companies were divided into three groups. They operated rotary saws to cut rebar from metal door props and used hand tools called irons to force wooden door props, . Tool handling techniques improved as the cadets became more accustomed to the natural tendency of saw movement from a circulating blade in motion.  

Station clean up during ventilation is extensive.  The rebuild assignment was downsized for Wednesday with the thought of creating a rebuild rotation into Thursday's drill.  OSB was replaced in selected areas of the prop while 2x4 studs were replaced in another.  Crews worked to stow all tools and equipment, breakdown rehab, clean saws and recycle the large pile cut up throughout the day.  Sweeping, raking, nailing and packing finished things off.

Thursday the cadets drove their PPE straight to the roof prop.  Unloading in the dark under the lights of entering vehicles served as a reminder of the long day ahead.  Set up was similar to that of the morning before with the exception of securing a panelized walkway to ensure safe travel between drill stations.

Drill stations scheduled for this day was axe work from a ladder attached to a pitched roof, saw work on a pitched roof, rebuild work on the panelized roof and multi-company evolutions at the Ming building.  At the axe station, cadets used the tool to cut and louver an opening, definitely a chain saw appreciation station.  Over at saws, teams sounded the roof and walked up the incline to the designated area, made the cuts, louvered the opening then punched through the ceiling below.

The station at the Ming area was treated as a structure fire scenario named the "Ming Incident" with Cadet Koehler serving as Ming IC.  Koehler did a fantastic job of directing crews through the scenario.  All transmissions were via handie talkies (HTs).  A variety assignments were accomplished.  Deploying an attack line, forcing entry with irons, forcing entry with a cut off saw, ventilating horizontally, pulling ceiling, setting of scene lighting, laddering the building, and performing a primary search to name a few.  At the end of each scenario, briefings called After Action Reviews were conducted.

The plug in of a rebuild station during the drill allowed for a faster clean up at the end of the day. The Battalion was able to complete all clean up efforts within an hour after drills ceased. A short review session and end of day talk commenced in the academy classroom.  Two extremely worthy days of ventilation training receiving positive feedback.

42 you are officially midway.  By this ninth week you have individually completed testing in hose, ladders, ropes, personal protective clothing and SCBA.  As a Battalion you have successfully worked for the better of your group.  Your success is attributed to the strength of your Battalion bond.  The reinforcement training of SCBA practice before and during finals was commendable.  Officers and leaders both stepped forward to help their team members beat the challenge.  You are doing a fine job. 

Captain Crudo


Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 8    Low Angle Rope Rescue Operational (LARRO), Truck Operations Field Exercise

This week focused on two staples within the fire service, each with its own set of guidelines, both critical for life safety.  Which staples, rope rescue systems and truck operations.  Both are considered basic training, however, there is an expertise behind the ability to perform rope and truck related assignments that come in low frequency and high intensity call types.

Every fire engine company carries rope rescue equipment and a standard complement of ladders and nearly every fire department houses a fire truck.  However, countless fire departments train a pool of truck personnel to an additional level of expertise for "Truck Response". Over the past few days, Battalion 42 experienced an environment as it relates to calls for truck response in the form of "over the side" and "fire ground support" work.

Rope orientation training was introduced back in academy week 2.  During that early session, a series of knot tying was demonstrated with the anticipation these knots would resurface in the form of a Knot Manipulation Exam the morning of LARRO, Day 1.  Thus, the start of week 8.

Monday morning the cadets reported to the academy classroom at 0800 for an introduction to State Fire Training's LARRO course.  The certification course offers three days of training in various areas of rope and system component use.  Course organization, management and equipment were discussed.  Within an hour, the group was moved to the knot rack for knot tying evaluation.

The series of knots to be evaluated consisted of the families of eights, overhands, bowlines and directional knots, the becket bend, butterfly, radium and webbing tied harnesses.  Tying standards were set with appearance, function and time.  Numerous cadets conquered the knot tying challenge with just as many having to complete a second round of evaluations, scheduled as a contingency the next morning. 

Day 1 was all about "Ground School".  This school had the group together at the knot rack area with equipment set up by category and function.  A recognition station was organized for system component identification.  Cadets learned the difference between rescue and utility rope, webbing, prussiks, caribiners, brakebars and pulley types.

Other areas covered a variety of rescue knots, anchor systems and mechanical advantage.  At the anchor area, cadets were shown how to secure an available anchor and how to build an independent anchor in the absence of an available one.  Driving metal pickets into the ground with the use of a sledge and webbing gave cadets aiming and tool handling practice. Attaching webbing to the various anchor types were then demonstrated.  At the mechanical advantage station, crews learned the difference in the hauling capability of a single pulley in comparison to a combination of pulleys which can drastically change work load and system productivity for the better.

The afternoon session of ground school took the group farther into system function and safety. The rope rescue of victims requires reinforced safety lines, strategic rescuer movement in an adverse environment while calmly interacting with victims as life saving equipment is safely secured to them.

Belay lines are a secondary safety system for rescuers.  Cadets learned the function behind each of the components within these systems.  The lines are attached to the member going over the side while another member tends the slack on the system.  Cadets learned to work the load releasing devices utilized when rope tension and component malfunction impedes lowering and raising efforts. Descending and ascending techniques were discussed to assist cadets with the smooth operations of the overall rescue.

Attaching personnel, equipment and victims to the systems was covered.  Cadets donned harnesses and attached themselves to the given system.  They were shown how to rig a stokes litter basket to the line and prepare the basket for victim rescue.  Lashing is a term used for the methods of securing a victim within a stokes basket. Cadets were instructed how to tie each type of lashing, interior which attaches the victim to the basket and exterior which reinforces the hold on the victim within the basket.  A solid day of system foundation building.

Tuesday focused on system assembly.  The props reserved to create a realistic environment to build these assemblies consisted of a constructed dirt mound called the Trench prop and the 5 story training tower on academy grounds.  After the successful completion of the knot remediation exam, the Battalion was divided off to gather at their assigned drill stations.

At the tower, cadets built lowering systems with accompanying belay lines to lower their rescue member to a victim staged on the low angle decline built into the tower's east side. Teams at the system level were charged with locating anchors for each of the lines, constructing both lowering and belay systems then lowering their rescuer down the slope to make contact with the victim.  Once victim contact was safely initiated, crews changed the lowering system over to a raising system as the rescuer over the side interacted and outfitted the victim with the proper harnessing for the ascent.

The trench prop set the stage for similar tactics.  Cadets had to build lowering and belay systems to send their rescuers down the dirt slope to the staged victims.  However, the descending crews consisted of multiple rescuers.  On one side of the prop groups sent 3 rescuers to the victim while on the other prop side, crews sent 4 rescuers.  This tactic involved different preparation priorities as rescuers needed to attach themselves to the system rigging and stokes basket set up. 

Upon arrival to the victim, the down team would move that victim into the stokes basket securing him with both interior and exterior lashing.  The team up top would make the necessary changes to convert the lowering system to a raising system.  When ready and instructed, teams would pull the lines, hauling the rescue crew up slope while resetting components as needed until the entire ascent was accomplished.  Lots of work for sometimes little movement as rescuers were hauled to safety.

Wednesday morning began with a reinforcement of Tuesday's lessons.  Cadets continued the practice of selecting a member to go over the side while others built and tended main and belay systems.  Confidence was building and systems were complete within significantly shorter time frames.  Crews were grasping a stronger understanding of why and ability of how to build the systems required.

The last afternoon of LARRO and greatest challenge of the course was an "All Hands" scenario. The Battalion staged at the base of the tower as cadre members positioned selected victims on the pile of concrete rubble just west of the trench prop.  Squads were dispatched to a simulated traffic accident with a vehicle over the side containing multiple ambulatory and non-ambulatory victims, all needing rope rescue.

"Trench IC" commanded the exercise.  Squads were given various jobs such as, securing the working perimeter, identifying and establishing anchor systems, preparing equipment to be carried over to the victims, building parallel lowering and belay lines and positioning a rescuer at the slope's edge to monitor and communicate operational needs.

The Battalion performed well and worked in unison as they made access to the victims sitting on top of the rubble pile.  Numerous rescuers were lowered to address the multiple victims. Cadets assigned to system building converted lowering lines to raising lines while the victims were being tended to.  Time constraints called the drill before all victims were raised to safety. A rescue job well done nonetheless.

The day ended with the clean up and inventory of equipment used over the three day period. Cadets completed a task book to document their certified training.  Certificates were printed and will be issued at graduation.  The Battalion's first certification course now behind them.

Thursday served to be the longest day of the group's busy week.  Another early arrival to load necessary equipment and instructional supplies for the Field Exercise scheduled at Oxnard Fire Station #1.  Additional belt axes, rubbish hooks, SCBA harnesses and bottles were loaded into Squad 1.  Rehab supplies, 20 sheets of OSB, 25 studs, 1000 square feet of roofing felt, a couple of dozen hammers, a case of nails and cadet issued PPE were loaded into the strike team of vehicles designated to make the trip to Staging, a parking lot across the street from Station 1.

A travel briefing, radio check and early departure put the Battalion enroute by 0800.  Vehicles were positioned in strike team fashion then unloaded with gear placed in formation.  After check-in was complete with the crews at Fire Station #1, the Battalion was briefed and relocated to fire station grounds.

Captain Cecena welcomed the Battalion.  He assigned early morning tasks for apparatus, drill station and equipment preparation, then ushered the group into their onsite classroom for a high energy motivation session. He explained the operational plan of the day and gave a brief overview of each of the scheduled drill stations.

Drill Station #1, Inside Operations & Utility Control.  Drill Station #2, Forcible Entry.  Drill Station #3, Roof Operations & Saws and Drill Station #4, Ladders; Ground/Aerial.

Training began with interactive discussions and instructor lead demonstrations showing cadets how to recognize a given situation or problem, select the method of which to conquer that problem, then execute the appropriate techniques for that method.  

Techniques such as finessing an attic ladder around the contents within a building, pulling ceiling in a burned room to check for fire extension, evaluating a given locking mechanism to determine the tactics to force it, physically and strategically forcing a metal door, trouble shooting starting delays with power saws, searching for and securing building utilities, using chain saws to cut ventilation holes on a simulated roof, rescuing a downed firefighter while utilizing a thermal imaging camera, climbing an aerial ladder and manipulating longer straight and extension ladders were among the numerous tasks cadets were to perform.

Field exercises are important sessions with academy instruction, as it provides a real time view of the facilities our surrounding fire departments train in. Cadets experienced a fire station environment set up for training while simultaneously serving as a fire station at the ready for emergency calls for service.

The added value of utilizing Oxnard Fire Station #1 as an alternate fire academy training ground for a session offered a remarkable view of the training area Oxnard City Fire Recruits experience upon hire. The training was priceless as many of the tasks performed utilized apparatus, tools and equipment unavailable to the Oxnard College Regional Fire Academy on a daily basis.  As an example, the use of Truck 61 with its aerial capabilities and full complement of ground ladders.  A huge round of applause and gratitude to the City of Oxnard Fire Department.

After drill station and grounds clean up, the Battalion gathered their gear and traveled back to academy grounds.  An enthusiastic, yet exhausted group off loaded all equipment and formed up in front of the apparatus bay.  Positive reviews for a great day of training.

Battalion 42, this week was loaded with lessons learned from every angle.  You are doing well and experiencing numerous situations, many for the first time.  Stay the course and continue to perform with a team setting in mind.  The world is yours and academy success is just weeks away.  Train to Survive.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 7    Wet Hose Evolutions/Simpson Incident, Search & Rescue, Ladder Up & Overs,         Apparatus Maintenance/Inventory Control, Case Study - Drexel Incident

Monday was the Battalion's first field exercise.  The drill was scheduled to be conducted on the Oxnard College main campus, with the gymnasium serving as the structure of choice. Apparatus preparation was the day's first assignment.

Once the engines were loaded with the necessary additional tools and equipment, a travel briefing was held.  The route, sequence of vehicles, radio communications and medical plan during travel were discussed.  After the briefing, academy staff and the Battalion positioned their engines and vehicles in formation, completed a radio check and departed for the main campus.

At the main campus, cadet personal gear was unloaded and organized and private vehicles were parked and secured.  The group came together in front of the gymnasium for a short pre-evolution briefing.  Companies learned the training objectives and location of each of the morning's four drill stations.

At one station trunk lines utilizing 2 1/2" attack lines were extended from the engine.  An appliance called a gated wye, was attached at the end of the 2 1/2 to allow for the connection of a structure bundle (high rise pack).  Crews worked in teams to advance the charged 1 3/4" hand lines pulled from the deployed structure bundle.

A second station had the cadets working the hardest as they experienced techniques used to advance a charged 2 1/2" attack line.  These lines are larger and much more difficult to manipulate.  Crews of three members are used because of the cumbersome tactics.  A true lesson in hose line selection and water pressure.  Cadets were also shown how to position this large attack line in a manner in which a single firefighter could control it.

The third and fourth stations taught the cadets how to charge large supply lines and set up a ground monitor for deluge operations.  Monitors are used to spray large volumes of water on a given target. Nozzles or tips are attached and can flow 600 - 1000 gallons of water a minute. The campus grass loved us.

Companies were dispatched to the Simpson Incident after lunch.  The scenario involved a multi-engine response to the gymnasium structure fire.  Cadets operated as if they were the engine crews working the emergency.  Performing as fire attack and deploying small and large hand lines, laddering the building, securing utilities, putting a ground monitor in service, connecting to the building sprinkler system, recognizing a potential hazardous materials situation or functioning as the incident commander were the number of tasks crews would accomplish before the drill ended.

An After Action Review (AAR) was held immediately following the completion of each of the two afternoon rotations with the entire Battalion attending.  During the open discussion, Company Officers shared their thoughts and explained their crew's assignments.  Each Officer was to speak using common fire service language.  Positive feedback and a successful wet hose evolution and combined operations training session reinvented.

Tuesday started off with five mile pistol range run followed up with a Battalion stretch.  The day's focus consisted of learning search and rescue techniques.  Classroom instruction kept the cadets attention as the reserved props were prepared for the day's rotation.  The burn prop was set for multi-level area searches, the ranch house (nicknamed the drug house) for single level searching, the roof prop for simulated firefighter rescue and the apparatus bay for wide area searching.  Each area forcing cadets to perform with face pieces darken to obstruct clear viewing.

At the burn prop crews of four to five entered on bottom floor searching in the blind for a manikin victim positioned on an above floor.  Crews made their way in the dark up the stairs using the given search technique.  Once the victim was located the group worked together to safely drag the manikin down stairs while maintaining communications and controlling breathing techniques to reserve bottled air.  In another area of the prop, other crews were tasked with searching and rescuing a child manikin victim while following the same communication and breathing guidelines.

At the roof prop, companies utilized rescue techniques for retrieving a firefighter who had just fallen through the roof.  A variety of methods were demonstrated and practiced.  The use of ropes from drop bags, rubbish hooks and hose lines all offered rescue capabilities.  Cadets learned the value of team work and how the angle of approach can drastically improve outcome.

The ranch house hosted its own set of challenges.  Cadets were to enter in teams and search around the furniture housed inside to find the family of victims needing rescue during a simulated fire.  Orientation and communication again played a key role in success.  Making contact with the victims was only the beginning of the labor intensive assignment.  Crews had to organize themselves with zero visibility and drag each of the victims they found back through the house and out the front door they originally entered in.

The app bay floor offered lessons in strategic movement of teams and victims and larger areas. Teamwork helped with efforts to locate and position a victim to give cadets the best advantage for pushing and pulling the victim to safety.  Another very strenuous yet extremely productive day.

Wednesday was October 1st.  To promote breast cancer awareness, the Battalion donned their pink shoe laces with their workout gear.  Two circuit training rotations while wearing their SCBAs and fashionable footwear had the group motivated.  A Battalion photo was taken and will be displayed in the campus news letter, October edition.

A full inspection was scheduled for 0900.  Cadets were to prepare all areas assigned as well as all gear and materials assigned.  Attention to detail caught a number of them off guard. Valuable lessons learned in having everything at the ready.

Structured SCBA practice followed.  Competitive sessions of donning increased competence. Timed donning rounds helped with setting the units up properly for the most effective don in addition to building muscle memory for the task.  SCBA/PPE donning finals will be conducted on Tuesday afternoon, October 14th.

Drill set up for the Wednesday's afternoon session was completed before lunch. This drill was used to build ladder climbing confidence while wearing full PPE/SCBA and hoisting tools and equipment.  Several ladders were placed and secured to different levels of the buildings in Ladderland, each offering its own climbing challenges.  

The 14' foot roof ladders were secured to a small building with a metal frame rail at the roof. Cadets would arrive to the railing, step onto then over the railing then finally onto the roof while maintaining full control and points of contact.  The 24' extension ladders were either placed in a second story window or onto a second floor roof.  Cadets would climb the ladder, enter the building from the window or walk the roof top.  A ladder circuit was created so cadets could climb up one, walk across to the next window and climb down the next, all fully donned and breathing air from their SCBA.  An excellent confidence builder.

Tool and equipment work was also integrated into the ladder session.  Companies practiced hoisting tools aloft to second story windows and roofs.  Cadets performing as the up team demonstrated how to tie themselves off on a roof to protect them from falling as they were lifting tools.  Down team cadets showed how to position themselves safely as they held the tag line of the hoisting operation. A variety of tools and equipment were hoisted, pike poles, rubbish hooks, medical bag, chain saws and axes.

Techniques for deploying dry hose either up a ladder or up a stairwell were also demonstrated. Cadets would advance the nozzle and hose to the ladder.  The first cadet would climb towards the roof with the nozzle as the second crew member shouldered additional hose while climbing the same ladder 10' behind the first.  Once both members were to the climbing objective, they hoisted the remaining length of hose needed to the roof.  A solid session of performing typical fire ground tasks.

Thursday started off with an early morning block exam.  Upon completion of the exam, cadets filtered out the rear door of the academy classroom and made their way to the apparatus bay. Apparatus maintenance and inventory control was morning's secondary assignment.  Tools and equipment utilized from the wet hose evolutions and the Simpson Incident were to be returned to the cash of academy housed inventory.  Cotton jacket hose was removed from the hose beds, washed and placed for drying.  Engines were washed and remaining inventory realigned.  The clean up session was complete by the lunch period.

Case study involving the Drexel Incident filled the afternoon and closed off week seven.  To prepare the group for the early morning fire situation, mapping, approach routes and hydrant locations were discussed. As a pre-plan for map access, the Battalion was instructed to bring laptops, tablets, phones and any internet capable device to the classroom session.  

The group was to work in crews of four, each utilizing a different mapping view of the area. One on a map view with a street name focus, another on a satellite view with a plot plan focus and a third on a street view with a building face focus.  An interactive engine company response session, challenging cadets to navigate their way to the specific address while taking into account hydrant locations, approach routes from north and south and potential exposures during the early morning fire.

The incident itself was referenced from a year's old review called "Post Incident Analysis" (PIA). Within the PIA are the actions of each of the responding companies and the over all outcome of the incident.  As each action was reviewed, the cadets were challenged to describe the manner in which they would accomplish that order as if it were assigned to them. A great critical thinking session.  Actions such as deploying the first attack line, laddering two sides of the building, cutting ventilation openings, securing utilities, managing a rescue situation, forcing a door to gain entry, pulling ceiling to check for extension and performing as a Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC) were all part of the critical thinking challenge.  A perfect way to bring reality to the lessons and techniques the cadets have experienced during this academy thus far.

42, you are progressing extremely well, sharing experiences with each other you will remember for decades.  The lessons you're learning in both fire service operations and crew/cadet daily life are real. The level to which you've chosen to manage these lessons shows your maturity and respectful since of responsibility.  I am extremely proud of your "high road" decision making and drive to right a wrong, as that style of behavior will always prove successful.

Great job,

Captain Crudo



Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 6  Hose & Ladder Finals, Strike, Turnout Storage Project, Salvage & Overhaul

Another hot one as Monday morning starts off with the only circuit rotation workout of the week. The Battalion now consistently wearing their SCBAs throughout all circuit stations during both rotations.  Since Ventura County Fire Department would be utilizing the tower for training this week the focus during this particular workout was to get on and off the tower before 0800.

Drill station set up followed workout with original ladder reservations held for Ladderland. However, to create a greater separation of training noise between County Fire and the College, ladder practice was relocated to the Burn Prop.  This worked out extremely well as Strike was located just across the street and very convenient during rotations.  And to keep testing familiar during Wednesday's ladder finals, the Burn Prop will again be used.

Monday's focus in both ladders and hose was to fine tune tasks in preparation for Wednesday's finals.  Crews continued with repetitive moves, timing and grading each other through each task. Side bars of cadets were offering subtle advise on how to shave time while maintaining quality performance.  Confidence and competence was building.

Ladders were practiced in full structure turnouts initially then downgraded as the sun took it's toll.  At Strike however, full turnouts was the call.  This station is another tool oriented workout involving pick and flat headed axes, irons and sledge hammers.  All used for lock breaking, lag shearing, hinge forcing, eye bolt prying and OSB wood cutting.  Many of the cadets loosing as much water by working as they were gaining by drinking.  Their aims and direct calls of order to "Strike!" showed marked improvements as the lesson progressed.  Their body movements and footing readjustments during the ordered action showed a clear picture of their ability to take the best advantage of letting a tool to do its work.

Yet another day ending with significant rebuild and clean up duties.  Striking and last week's Pry stations are a functional use of tools from all angles.  The cadets have built, destroyed and rebuilt the roof prop.  Later during the semester they will do it again.  Saw use during ventilation operations is intense and can only be mastered by performing excessive cutting techniques, thus creating another need to work to rebuild after the work to train is done.

Every Battalion is given an assignment to make a difference with academy function, appearance or recognition.  For the past 3 semesters, the bunker row area has been this assignment focus. The area contains a series of concrete bunkers used to store the equipment and supplies utilized by the academy daily.  Battalion 40 kicked off the overall reorganization plan by clearing the first set of designated bunkers to make way for ladder storage.  41 relocated all turnout inventory to side by side bunkers and emptied an additional bunker designated to house the vast amounts of wood the cadets cut, strike and pry through every semester.  

Wood consumption is significant with just under two hundred sheets of OSB, seventy studs, a dozen 2x8s and sheets of drywall labored through by every Battalion.  All necessary to improve student success through experiential learning, while building the basic skill set of tool operation needed for entry level firefighter recruit and accommodating surrounding fire agency requests to produce tool minded graduates.

42's assignment could have rightfully renamed the them "Construction Battalion 42".  They were to build and mount shelves and storage benches to accommodate cadet issued turnouts and equipment.  Each company was assigned one of four walls to complete.  Officers were to form sub groups by pre-designating tasks of concrete drilling, wood cutting, measuring and building.  

Each sub-group worked together to ensure correct measurements were taken, proper pieces were cut then screwed into the assembly while maintaining communications with cadets assigned to drilling.  Drillers learned the value of keeping a drill bit and gun cool as they worked to make way for lag supports for each shelf and bench assembly.  When all was ready, the assemblies were wall mounted and reinforced with the appropriate hardware.  The bulk of the project was completed by the days' end.  Great teamwork by all players.  Thank you Captain Kromka and CS1.

Radio communications continued and played an effective role in the movement of cadets rotating through hose and ladder final stations on Wednesday.  It also allowed for a bit of reality related to dispatching and the sometimes inconvenience of emergency call timing.  To remind the group to be constantly at the ready, the Battalion was dispatched to a structure fire during their morning hygiene period.  A good number of them caught off guard, making every effort to organize themselves right out of the shower and rush to don their turnouts.  Lessons learned to strategically place necessary items for immediate use when seconds count. 

The morning of finals began with a team building session of hose lay competition.  The playoffs finished with Alpha and Bravo leading.  Captain Miranda served as the competition master of ceremonies and surprised the group by slightly changing the order for competitor selection. Cadets who performed during the playoffs would now stand at the side lines in support of their teammates competing in the finals.  This was a great call, as unexpected cadets now had to step forward and make it happen.  Boisterous cheering from the "peanut gallery" had all players pumped up and moving with intent, with Bravo ultimately taking the win.  A Battalion photo was taken immediately following the event with Bravo up front and wearing helmets. (the photo displayed in this blog announcement)

Finals commenced after the competition clean up.  Bravo to forward lay, Delta to reverse lay, Alpha at ladders and Charlie at bunker row continuing with Battalion project completion.  Radio communications between Company Officers was appropriate and extremely effective.  What a great job they did updating one another while advancing their crew members from station to station in an effort to complete the entire evaluation process.  With finals testing complete and the bunker project finished, a well earned rest period came in the form of a seated position in the academy classroom.  The order "Seats" was welcomed with exhausted bodies, sighs of relief and feelings of a powerful sense of accomplishment.  Scores are not normally discussed in open, however recognition must be given to the only cadet securing a 100% in both hose lays.  Cadet Pelkola set the bar on this day.  Congratulations!

Thursday was filled with salvage and overhaul operations.  The day started early with a morning set up of salvage cover folding and chute and catchall constructing.  These assemblies would later serve as the basis of "Salvage and Overhaul Ground School".  

During ground school, cadets learned the purpose of a given fold or layout of a constructed piece. The demonstration included the use of basic tools and equipment to serve as the foundation for a given assembly, such as pike poles wrapped in a large size vinyl salvage cover then secured at a high point to catch water pouring from a leaking sprinkler head, or a sump or catch basin made of ladders on edge with a salvage cover draped inside to contain a greater volume of leaking water from an overhead sprinkler.  

Throwing techniques were also demonstrated.  Cadets are responsible and evaluated on their ability to arrange the contents of a room to the center of that room, then spread (throw) a salvage cover over the top of those contents to protect them from water and debris damage during the given emergency.  

After lunch, salvage and overhaul station rotations began, each station containing a problem solving component.  Two companies headed to designated classrooms to problem solve a water emergency situation involving a leak in an office setting.  Crews had arrange furniture contents in the room to create a catch basin large enough to hold the amount of water draining from the plumbing above.  Math calculations were made to determine both the volume and weight of the leaking water so a basin size could be identified.

Another company performed operations at the "Wet" station.  This one by far the most fun. Crews dressed in full turnouts were challenged with constructing salvage covers to effectively divert water spraying from an actively leaking sprinkler.  Rubber mallets, sprinkler wedges, A-framed ladders, pike poles, salvage covers, ingenuity, teamwork and a good sense of humor made this station.  Many well thought plans were thrown by the waste side as crews tried to plug the sprinkler heads and meet the water diverting objective.  Good water soaking fun and cooling on another high temperature day.

The fourth salvage station was held inside the apparatus bay where ground school was conducted.  This station consisted of rebuilding each of the constructed displays showcased during the earlier demonstration, then practicing the various throws and folds one and two firefighters would perform during a salvage incident.

The week ended with enthusiasm and a well deserved three day rest period.  Congratulations Battalion 42 on your outstanding ability in bringing it all together for your first round of finals. You've shown extraordinary support of one another, a true bond and the foundation to the success of an entire Battalion and the fire service.  Games are won and incidents are mitigated utilizing this very characteristic you guys are perfecting.  Good job.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 5 -  Hose, Ladders, Intro to Saws, Forcible Entry, SCBA Confidence & Pry Interior work

The heat was on this week in both nature and training reality. With daily temperatures holding steady in the 80's and the demands of learning new skills in appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment, the cadets had never been so taxed.  

Monday morning, after an early workout of circuit rotations while wearing SCBA harness and bottle assemblies, the Battalion set up the scheduled drill stations.  On this particular day, drill placement for hose lays and ladders were reorganized.  Both forward and reverse hose lays were conducted on the mat surrounding the apparatus bay and ladders were to be thrown against the rail car props in the hazardous materials training area we call Haz Mat Land.  The reorg was to allow room for Ventura County Fire Department to evaluate their probationary firefighters during their "Post Academy Evaluations" PAEs.  However, nature and emergency incidents forced the response of a number of their personnel to out of county wild fires in both northern and southern areas of the state, thus cancelling and postponing PAEs.  Duty calls.

The decision was made to continue drilling hose lays in close proximity.  The set up worked well by minimizing transitional times between stations. Ladder training however, was relocated to the Burn Prop.  The two story structure is a more realistic environment for improving ladder techniques. The move was productive two-fold because of the training aspect and the proximity to "Intro to Saws" which in turn resulted in shorter transitional times between stations.

To paint a picture of academy training demands, I want to touch on the "how & why" of drill scheduling.  Drill focus and topic is sequential as is the required attire for each station.  For example, a drill involving hand tool recognition and touch is scheduled prior to one of hand tool operation and skill.  Personal protective clothing requirements for each of those stations appropriately differ.  A lighter weight station pant, boot, t-shirt, brush coat, helmet and glove attire for tool recognition and touch and full structure turnout gear for tool operation and skill. In many cases, workout gear (shorts & t-shirts) are worn underneath full structure clothing to allow for comfort and cooling.

Company rotation is strategically planned around topic and attire.  Stations requiring full personal protective clothing are consecutively transitioned through during one portion of the day, either the morning or afternoon.  So a typical drill rotation will have a company moving through two stations requiring the use of full turnouts in the morning and two stations wearing lighter weight protective clothing in the afternoon.  To further equalize training demands among the Battalion, tough rotational periods in the afternoon are shared.  Day one, Companies A & C will rotate through a hot afternoon in full turnouts, with Companies B & D doing the same on day two.

Hopefully with a better idea of the training and clothing requirements mandated this heated week, respectful thoughts of cadet dedication and the drive to perform successfully should come to mind.  Every member of 42 pushed themselves to their limits this week to gain every minute of the training offered.

Once Monday's drill set up of tools and rehab was complete, crews showered then reported to their assigned location.  On the mat, hose lay skills continued to improve in areas of accuracy, speed and communication.

At the Burn Prop, ladder placing, securing, climbing and communicating is practiced.  Mastering 2 firefighter raising techniques is a must for overall safety.  Cadets were tasked to work in teams to assess the building height, choose and apply the raising method and then use their personal issued webbing to secure the ladder to the building.  Once complete, ladder climbing practice began.

As mentioned last week, climbing skill takes coordination, for some it comes naturally and others it's acquired.  A "Ladder Up & Overs" drill provides reinforced training.  With a total of four ladders placed and secured to the building, fully donned cadets would climb one ladder, make contact with roof top railing, step over the railing onto the roof's floor, move across the roof top near the railing to the next ladder, step onto it, climb down it and repeat the moves through the remaining two ladders while maintaining a minimum of three points of contact at all times.  Cadets did a great job of focusing on the opposites of hand and foot moves.

At the "Saws" station, cadets were introduced to saw components, basic maintenance, cleaning and refueling.  Two saw types were covered.  The chain saw, used primarily for wooden roof and floor breaching and the rotary "cut off" saw, used for metal bar or door cutting.  Each saw with its own characteristics of handling and operation.  Crews were taught chain saw techniques used to cut straight lines on props simulating roof tops.  The ability to start, hold, position and move the blade through wood was shown initially, with attention later placed on the skill the feeling the underlying structural members without cutting into them. A rebar tree was used to teach rotary saw operations.  The tree stands tall with cutting stations at all levels and angles.  Cadets were instructed how to safely manipulate the saw to complete each cutting objective.

Tuesday started with an early morning briefing to improve leadership skills.  Officers were introduced to the concept of pre-designated assignments, call type dispatching and dressing as needed for the given emergency.  They were to choose specific members of their companies to perform assigned duties as needed for the given situation, such as retrieving medical gear, acting as the medic during patient contact or listening to the details and location of a radio dispatch.  Basic designations were identified for a company engineer, a medic and two runners.  To support this concept, an increase in handie talkie (HT) communications was implemented.  Officers will now check-in every morning, retrieve their radio, power it on and position the selector knob to the appropriate channel for the day.  Each instructed to monitor and relay all transmissions via HT. 

A formation run immediately followed and yes you guessed it, the dispatching started.  During various parts of the run, crews were separately dispatched to a given call type and location, then expected to hightail it back to their PPE and dress for the occasion.  Once the company responded over the radio they were cancelled and returned to the formation run.  A face to face meeting was generated with the Company Officer and Engineer prior to returning to the run.  Each had to answer direct questions of "What call type were you responding to?"  "What address and cross street was given?" and "Why did you choose to dress in that specific PPE?" A fun productive interaction which will require improvement in fine tuning listening and decision making skills.

Forcible entry training filled this classroom day.  Cadets learned to identify various locks and mechanisms.  They were shown the weak and strong points of these locks, then taught how to analyze and overcome that weak point to force entry into a given building.  They learned some locks can be easily worked by manipulating the key area while others are reinforced and can only be breached by cutting.  I suspect everyone in an effort to ensure personal safety went home that night re-evaluating their own residential lock situation.

Wednesday's early morning workout was cancelled due to the administration of block exam 422.  Upon completion, cadets filed out of the back of the classroom in pairs to set up the day's drill stations of hose, ladders and SCBA confidence.  This day would quickly turn into experiences in the value of gravity, talking yourself calm and controlling breathing in stressful situations.  

At Ladders, one firefighter raising methods for placing 24' extension ladders were introduced. Each cadet was tasked with picking up, carrying, placing, footing, raising, leaning and adjusting these long and lightweight pieces of equipment against the given objective.  A handful of them lost to gravity as the ladders fell.  Affected cadets were quickly assessed for injury and motivated to continue performing.  Rebuilding confidence and reinforcing technical skill is a must for success. Equipment was repeatedly analyzed for safe and effective function.  By the end of these sessions, every cadet was able to meet their ladder objective with a few performing as natural masters.

The cancellation of Ventura County Fire Department's PAEs, presented the opportunity to utilize the SCBA prop for confidence training.  The prop is contained within an 8'x45' trailer, towed in and off loaded by one of County's commercial drivers.  Constructed inside is an unlit two story wooden maze with a make shift window, stairs, slide, narrow passageway, large living room, movable slats to change travel direction and an instructor's hallway for monitoring.  FUN STUFF!

The assignment?  Enter through one door, navigate your way through the maze in the dark on air, remaining calm and strategic while conducting a right-handed search pattern, staying together, communicating with one another, narrowing your profile by removing your SCBA and advancing through the tight spot, then re-donning prior to exiting the opposite hallway.  Easy for some and challenging for others, a true test of reality and self discipline.

As ladders and SCBA challenges continued, so did the mastering of hose laying techniques. Crews have numerous hours in hose drills behind them now, enough to entice relay competitions between companies.  The first round of friendly fun started with Alpha and Charlie companies.  A very close competition with Alpha taking the win.  A rematch is in the works. At the day's summary, lots of positive feedback, encouragement and the recommendation to eat and sleep well in preparation for the next heavy drill day.

Thursday, the last instructional day of the week was without a doubt the most demanding.  Drill and rehab set up for the day followed a 4.5 mile formation run.  The hot afternoon rotation of performing in turnouts fell on Alpha and Charlie.  The scheduled rotation consisted of forward and reverse hose lays, 1 firefighter ladder placement and climbing and hand tool work at the roof prop a station we call "Pry".

At Pry, cadets performed in full turnouts learning then demonstrating techniques used to force entry through door jams.  Light and heavy "irons" (a combination of either a haligan/flat head axe or haligan/10#sledge) were used for prying.  Belt axes were used to check for interior fire extension by cutting through OSB ceilings and walls.  Rubbish hooks and pike poles were used to break simulated glass windows at floor and above floor levels.  The overhead work of cutting ceiling was an eye opener for the entire Battalion.  Everyone of them pushed beyond their comfort zone.  Team building was at a high as weary finishers turned around to encourage their buddies to complete the assignment and meet their cutting objective.  It was definitely a quality aim appreciation session.

Radio use continued and for the first time, the Battalion was dispatched to a lunch time structure fire.  "Structure fire sector 42, Companies Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, respond to a reported structure fire, at the app bay on 104 Durley Drive, one-zero-four Durley Drive, cross of Academy Way, respond on channel one."  Cadets filtered out of the lunch room in waves, dropping whatever they were doing so they could quickly make their way to their turnouts and dress in record time. Pax reinvented the PT uniform by utilizing the closest foot wear available to catch up with his crew, a comical moment the group will surely remember.

Afternoon rotations began at 1310 with temperatures hovering in the low 80's.  As Alpha and Charlie worked their muscles and minds through Ladders and Pry, Bravo and Delta mastered their skills at hose lays.  Another round of friendly competition commenced with Bravo taking the win and it looks as if another rematch will be in order.

The week ended in good spirits.  The group was polled to determine if the demands of rotating through Ladders and Pry in the same morning or afternoon session was too daunting.  The result, an overwhelming support of maintaining the current regiment.

Summary ended with the introduction of the next round of company officers.  Battalion Officer Minicucci, Company A Officer Powell, Company B Officer Hill, Company C Officer Dominguez and Company D Officer Braun will lead the group through next week and beyond.  In the midst of Battalion 42's hose and ladder finals next week, the Ventura County Fire Department's will conduct Rope Rescue Systems 1 training and countywide Regional HazMat training and the State of California will facilitate FF1 Certification Evaluator's training, all onsite.  It's going to be a busy one.

42, a loud round of applause to each of you.  As you prepare for this very important week of performance finals, stay confident in your ability.  You all have it, the cadres and I have all seen it and we are looking forward to your success.

Captain Crudo



Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 4  Hose, Ladders, SCBA, Electrical, Tools Aloft, Pnuematic Hydraulic, FD Ops

Monday came in hard this week, as the Battalion came together to offer community service over the weekend by assisting with a fundraising 5K run.  The event was extremely successful. Thank You, 42!  Your efforts were truly recognized and highly appreciated.

Forward and reverse hose lays practice continued throughout each day of drills this week.  A rotation through each of the two stations had the cadets performing multiple rounds of hose lay evolutions while serving in different assignments with each round.  Every cadet is responsible for functioning in each of the four hose lay assignments on the engine.  Those assignments include deploying 200' of 2 1/2" attack line or footing a 4" discharge line then signaling the engine to "take off" or attaching a metal appliance to the hose to control water movement within the lines, or returning to the engine and riding it to the hydrant to assist with hose connections at the pump panel.  On this first day back, companies performed these tasks in turnout pants and boots, brush coats and helmets.

SCBA training was also expanded on Monday.  Engines 5 & 38 were positioned in a manner to allow cadets to act as if they had just arrived to a structure fire.  Crews would dismount the engine in full turnouts, retrieve and don their breathing apparatus, extend a 1 1/2" attack line to the objective, foot the bale, utilize an HT to call for water, don their face piece, go on air, check their crew mate to ensure full protection of body surfaces, bleed the nozzle and advance the hose and nozzle as a team through the simulated doorway.

Monday's fourth station consisted of lessons in the use of electrical power tools.  Companies were taught how to operate a variety of saws by performing cuts on metal and wood to prepare for a Battalion assignment scheduled later this month.  Amperage, circuits, generator use and loading were also part of this station.  Cadets were challenged to utilize the proper cords for powering multiple pieces of equipment, such scene lighting, blowers and saws simultaneously while adhering to the load guidelines of the given generator.

Tuesday started with a 4 mile formation run.  Battalion cadence could be heard from a distance as the group chanted to the rhythm and called out the next motivator.  After workout companies set up drill stations for yet another busy day of performing in turnouts, as the cadets put it, "a 3 t-shirt day".

The Burn Prop was the ladder focus of the day as crews used a 2 person techniques to place 24' extension ladders.  Cadets voiced commands and worked through the steps repeatedly to reinforce muscle memory, synchronization and clear communication.  Balancing the ladder as it was fully extended turned into a challenge for a number of cadets as afternoon winds picked up.

A Tools Aloft station was introduced.  The hazardous materials prop area served as the spot for tying and hoisting.  Cadets learned basic knots and ties for securing equipment prior to being lifted to above ground levels.  Dry attack lines, SCBA bottles, medical equipment, power saws and such were all hauled up to the prop's cat walk.

Tuesday ended with a comprehensive fill-in exam forcing cadets to draw from their memory and daily drill experience to list each of the commands verbalized for both the 14' roof ladder and 24' extension ladder raising and lowering maneuvers.

Ladder training was expanded on Wednesday.  The Burn Prop again served as the two story structure for 24' extension ladder placement.  Raising and lowering techniques continued to improve as cadets took advantage of the practice time.  This round of training challenged the cadets further by teaching them proper climbing methods using organized and coordinated movements of both hands and feet during the climb, a process that may or may not come naturally.

Cadets were further challenged to overcome their fear of heights and have faith in their crew's ability.  Each cadet was tasked with climbing the ladder, maneuvering their legs to lock into the ladder as their crew member stood at the ladder's base and held it steady.  Once locked in, the cadet was to lean back while looking to the sky, a true confidence builder.

A pneumatic and hydraulic tool station was also scheduled for Wednesday.  At this station, companies learned the strength of simple blocks of wood and how placing these blocks in given patterns can support an object weighing thousands of pounds.  Air bags, bottle jacks and long pry bars for heavy lifting were also utilized.  Crews were tasked with the assignment of lifting and cribbing a four thousand pound piece of concrete.  Teamwork played a key role.

The morning of 9/11, the Battalion completed a 4.5 mile formation run then met at the knot rack for tying practice.  Times and performance continues to improve on a number of required knots such as the family of eights, bowlines, overhands, the clove hitch, butterfly and the becket bend. 

A morning briefing with all officers and drivers to the 9/11 ceremony preceded the group's departure to the college main campus.  The Battalion traveled as if it were part of a strike team headed to a large scale incident.  Travel orders were issued with communications and medical plans attached.  Companies were to organize themselves in the designated vehicles, position the vehicle as instructed and travel in a particular order while utilizing HTs as the primary mode of contact.  Upon arrival to the college the Battalion came together, marched to their staging area then stood at attention during their pre-ceremony inspection.

Cadet Giovinazzo did an outstanding job of leading the march and placing the group for the ceremony.  He also served as a guest speaker, talking about the influence 9/11 events made on him and his decisions to serve in the military and fire service. Thank you Cadet Giovinazzo for your dedicated performance.  We are honored to have you as one of our academy leaders. 

Immediately following release from the ceremony, crews departed for the academy.  A leadership meeting for current and former officers was scheduled to take place during lunch. The officers were tasked with formulating an objective plan to overcome Battalion training challenges as Chief Warner and Captain Crudo observed to ensure guidelines were properly followed.  The group made difficult decisions and will prove successful without a doubt.

The week ended with lessons in call types, dispatch response levels and the beginnings of on-scene reports and apparatus placement of initial responding companies. Tactics and strategies will continue to be covered and expanded on as the semester moves forward.

Prior to dismissal on the 11th, the Battalion posed for several photos.  A Battalion Calendar containing pictures of the group as a whole, companies and squads will be showcased.  The calendar will serve as a fundraiser to help off set the cost of the cadet certification fees.  So have your dollars ready to support the effort because I'm convinced the calendar will be a huge success.

Great job 42, you are coming through!

Captain Crudo




Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 3 - DRILL ROTATIONS - Hose, Ladders, SCBA, Toolbox

"Take off!...Hundred down!...WATER!...Ladder coming around!...Beam ladder!...Lower ladder!...Re-spot ladder!...PASS activated!...Seal!" were the repetitive statements made this week, as this was the first official week of drill rotations.

Tuesday morning started off early.  Cadets arrived at 0615 to unload and set-up their gear on the mat in preparation for the most active day of the semester thus far.  A Battalion stretch preceded the 0715 workout of the day. By 0810, Officer's Minicucci, Barassi, Galbraith, Giovinazzo and Whitby were leading their companies about the grounds as they prepped the day's drill stations. Hydrants were placed for hose lays, 14' roof ladders were positioned for raising, the app bay floor was swept and mopped for SCBA donning and doffing, water containers were filled and shaded areas were constructed for cadet rehab between rotations. 

At 0855, the cadets stood at parade rest in formation behind their personal protective gear, showered and dressed in clean dry workout clothing while they listened to rotation and rehab instructions. The message, "move and arrive in unison, remain focused, maintain situational awareness and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!"  as this was the first day the Battalion was required to perform in their turnouts ALL day.

A total of four 90 minute stations were planned for this day, forward hose lay, reverse hose lay, roof ladder placement and SCBA donning and doffing.  Companies were organized to complete two rotations in the morning, break for lunch, then finish with two rotations in the afternoon.

At the hose lay stations, cadets were setting up 4" water supply lines from hydrants to the fire engines, deploying 2 1/2" attack lines towards the fire and calling for water. The ladder station focus was to teach cadets to properly ground, carry, spot, raise and place a 14' roof ladder on a single story structure.  Cadets simultaneously voiced commands as they manipulated the ladder through the series of tasks.  

SCBA operations started with techniques previously covered such as, using the coat method to don, reaching back to turn the bottle on, while controlling both the mask mounted regulator (MMR) and personal alarm safety system (PASS).  Steps to donning over the head were then performed repeatedly for the purpose of muscle memory.  Once achieved, donning sessions were timed to work towards the complete don minimum standard of one minute.

The day ended well with positive feedback.  Cadets stood outside on the app bay mat in their saturated workout gear discussing the events of the day and offering or looking for peer advice on the "how to...". 

Wednesday was all about SCBA confidence training.  Timed and structured Battalion donning sessions filled the morning.  Competitive rounds reinforced company camaraderie.  As skills were developing, donning times shortened.  The timed measurement to beat, with the Battalion as a whole thus far is 100% in 1:45.  The group will continue to practice as they attempt to shave the latter 45 seconds off in an effort to meet the one minute standard.

Just before lunch, 42 was introduced to the SCBA confidence tunnel.  The tunnel is described as 60' in overall length, horseshoe shaped with canvas coverings at the ends to keep out light. It will serve as the focus for the remainder of the day and be utilized to build on cadet skill depth and confidence.

The first round had cadets with SCBA donned, MMR disconnected, while crawling the entire length of the unlit tunnel.  The next pass had the cadets breathing the air from their SCBA, mask still darkened. The third round challenged the cadets to enter the tunnel, SCBA donned and on air, narrow their profile by removing the harness assembly and traversing the base of the tunnel, then re-donning the assembly in the dark and exiting the last leg of the tunnel. 

The last pass was by far the most demanding. Cadets entered in pairs, one at each end, communicating through handie talkies (HTs) with the intent to rescue the manikin victim or victims inside. During this one pass, fully donned cadets would be managing their movement in a confined area, utilizing HT radios to relay messages of the ongoing progress inside, talking mask to mask with each other about how to remove the victim, while encouraging one another to remain calm and in control of their breathing in the dark. A powerful confidence building drill.

Drills continued into Thursday with morning set-up operations mimicking those of drill day one. On this day, the four 90 minute stations consisted of forward hose lay, reverse hose lay, 24' extension ladder operations and "toolbox". Each with its own unique challenges.

At ladders, cadets learned basic techniques and commands for a two person team to raise a 24' extension ladder. Team member communication and synchronization is key. The toolbox station offered practice in basic hand tool use for a variety of tasks such as cutting chain, fence and spreading metal bars. The station capped with the traumatic rescue of a manikin with an impaled section of rebar. Crews worked together to troubleshoot their way through the simulated emergency.

Thursday ended with the entire Battalion conducting a 20 minute knot tying session with fire technology students from FT151.  Cadets Galbraith and Powell gave simple demonstrations of how to tie two basic knots, a figure eight stopper and a figure eight on a bight. The remainder of the Battalion mentored students during their knot tying practice. FT151 prevailed by meeting the minimum tying standard of thirty seconds as Instructor and LAFD Captain Mike Ketaily proudly watched. The session closed with a question, answer period.

Friday morning started with an early morning briefing with current and upcoming officers attending. Battalion Officer Cadet Minicucci, Company 'A' Officer Cadet Kurowski, Company 'B' Officer Cadet Pelkola, Company 'C' Officer Cadet Wiatt and Company 'D' Officer Cadet Koehler were appointed and will lead the Battalion through the busiest weeks of this semester's academy. Congratulations on your new assignments.

The practice of issuing radios to Company Officers started earlier during the week and continues. This basic communication skill is one of necessity.  To take advantage of HT radio time, the Battalion formation run was interrupted with a dispatch to a simulated structure fire at the App Building. Companies were to rapidly return to their gear, fully don and respond via the HT on channel one. The turnout time was 2:45, a measurement we will continue to work on.

A surprise formal inspection followed workout.  Cadets stood at attention with anxiety as the Training Captain from Ventura County Fire Department, Captain Scott Detorre performed the task.  Formally dressed Captain Detorre moved through the Battalion, examining each cadet in the same manner as if they were County Fire Department recruits. Cadets were viewed with scrutiny and asked direct questions. They experienced the true value of preparation, a "thousand yard stare" and following the "remember your study material" advice they had just given FT151 students the day before.

The morning moved forward with marching and knot tying practice.  Fire department operations related to organizational structure, response model and training needs filled the afternoon.  Squads were tasked with creating and presenting a plan to meet fire department requirements for defibrillator continuing education training and open course driver's training for fourth quarter probationary firefighters. The week came to a close with a written Block Exam, comprehensive from day one.  

Battalion 42, you have bonded tremendously. The thirty-four of you have come together and formed a team of one.  I'm very impressed. Great job! 

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 2   Apparatus & Equipment Familiarization

Introduction to hose, ladders, self-contained breathing apparatus, ropes and fire engine inventory was the focus during this week of apparatus and equipment familiarization. 

Monday morning, the cadets were introduced to hydrants, water supply and the hoses connecting the fire engine pump to the hydrant.  The use of appliances (metal devices used to assist with water movement), fitting types and standards regarding coupling threads, connections and hose diameter was covered in depth.  Equipment was placed on display to allow cadets the opportunity to touch, examine and work with.  The session ended with a "Fitting Bee" in which cadets were challenged to identify and describe the use of various fittings and appliances chosen at random.

Exposure to ladder operations came the next morning.  The Battalion was divided in half and rotated through two stations, the classroom for lecture and a prop area we call Ladderland for skills. Component recognition, ladder placement rules and command voicing were discussed inside while carrying, balancing and raising techniques were applied outside.  Cadets experienced their first chances to manipulate 14' straight ladders.

The academy possess 4 fire engines, 1 rescue squad and 1 ambulance, all of which have been generously donated by Ventura County, Los Angles City and Oxnard Fire Departments.  Each apparatus contains its own complement of equipment.  As a result, a high priority has been set for inventory control and general preventative maintenance.  Tuesday afternoon, companies were exposed to the apparatus they are assigned to for the semester.  Company 'A', Engine 1; Company 'B', Engine 38; Company 'C', Engine 4; Company 'D', Engine 5.  Cadets worked together taking notes, photographing and quizzing one another on item identification and location.  Company 'A' turned learning fun, coming up with an item retrieval competition between members, with Cadet Powell calling the shots.  

An impromptu salvage cover drill ended this day, after a component malfunction caused a water leak to pour through a classroom ceiling.  Cadets worked together to place containers to catch flowing water and utilized squeegies and mops to remove standing water, a real time, real life water related public assist.  They finished off the job by constructing catchalls out of salvage covers as instructors talked them through the process.  Great job 42!  Chief Warner and the entire Fire Technology staff thanks you.

Hose loads and deployment was covered mid-week.  Cadets were introduced to the methods used to perform two basic hose lays used commonly on fire incidents, the forward lay and reverse lay.  These stations were the cadet's first exposure to fire ground methods and operations.

Wednesday afternoon, the Battalion came together on the apparatus floor to get better acquainted with their self-contained breathing apparatus.  Of all pieces of equipment, this one holds the highest priority as it's use is directly related to firefighter survival.  Confident and competent operation of this apparatus is a must.  Cadets were exposed in increments to the sequential steps to don and operate the components of the SCBA bottle/harness assembly.  As confidence built so did the depth of operation.  Within a short time frame, the Battalion was practicing a full don of equipment while managing their personal alarm device and mask mounted regulators.  They did an incredible job of minimizing bottle air loss during transitions. 

Thursday started with rope orientation.  Rope use throughout this academy is extensive.  Cadets will learn how to build low and high angle rope rescue systems as well as rope rescue using ladder systems.  This training relies a great deal on the cadet's ability to tie knots.  More than a dozen knots are commonly used.  The Battalion assembled at the Knot Rack prop for structured practice as rope cadre members monitored performance throughout the instruction to ensure the cadets were using the correct ties.

The week ended with the research and creation of SCBA Training videos.  Each squad was tasked with documenting the function of assembly components, then narrating a training video to be distributed between squads for classroom viewing.  The exercise was an interactive and entertaining method of instruction.  The group has a few creative actors among them. :)

You are doing a fine job Battalion 42, keep up the good work.

Captain Crudo